Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #237
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: February 26, 2010
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $54,677,170
Running Time: 101 minutes
Director: Breck Eisner
Producers: Michael Aguilar, Rob Cowan, Dean Georgaris, George A Romero (executive)
Screenplay: Scott Kosar, Ray Wright
Story: George A Romero
Special Effects: Jonah Levy, Toby Sells, Kenny Myers
Visual Effects: Trevor Adams, Aaron Brown, David Burton, Tim Carras, Patti Gannon, Mike Uguccioni
Cinematography: Maxime Alexandre
Score: Mark Isham
Editing: Billy Fox
Studios: Participant Media, Imagenation Abu Dhabi
Distributor: Overture Films
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, Preston Bailey, John Aylward, Joe Reegan, Glenn Morshower, Larry Cedar, Gregory Sporleder, Mike Hickman, Lisa K. Wyatt, Justin Welborn, Chet Grissom, Tahmus Rounds, Brett Wagner, Alex Van, Anthony Winters, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Justin Miles, Marian Green, E. Roger Mitchell
Suggested Audio Candy:
Mark Isham Something in the Water
Remakes are notoriously hard to execute with any degree of success. Heaven knows, we’ve seen enough of them over the past decade to reenact the eighties almost in their entirety. There have been numerous troughs, punctuated with the odd peak but invariably most have failed to emulate their forerunners. Amidst the so-so retellings of Friday the 13th, The Toolbox Murders and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and studio-churned drivel When a Stranger Calls and Prom Night there have been a few blips to the lull and very occasionally a director like Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) or, to a lesser extent, Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine) comes along and does it justice.
Whilst on the topic of Zack, he used Johnny Cash to open his Dawn reboot and Breck Eisner echoes the sentiment by utilizing Cash’s We’ll Meet Again from his same album American IV at the commencement here. Like Snyder, he also decides against weighing his picture down with social commentary and focusing on crafting a more intimate tale, free from the confines of having to subliminally educate. There’s still plenty of food for thought and the grey matter will still be tested, albeit vaguely, but Eisner cuts down the margin for error by remaining focused rather than constantly schooling.
Like Snyder’s excellent remake of Romero’s indisputable classic, aside from sprinting zombies, this remains mostly faithful of its source material whilst offering its own take on the events. It’s nobody’s bitch from the offset and traverses its own path but most of the themes are still very much in place. Romero’s 1973 original was modest in its aspirations and this is too. Where it raises the bar is slick production, increasingly portentous tone and some cracking performances from a pool of well established actors, most notably Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell. Their attachment to this project alone alleviated my concerns although, having said that, Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot Psycho remake recruited William H. Macy, Julianne Moore and Philip Baker Hall and look where that ended up. Fortunately, this is an entirely different creature.
Olyphant is pitch perfect as small town sheriff David Dutton, he’s impressed me since first introduction to Doug Liman’s Go and shows just how much he has come of age, balancing the entire film on his broad reliable shoulders. He is aided infinitely by Mitchell who plays his pregnant spouse and also by Joe Anderson who is excellent as his cantankerous deputy Russell and rather reminiscent of the awesome CJ from the Dawn remake. Horror aficionados will also recognize Danielle Panabaker from Friday the 13th, The Ward and Piranha 3DD and she excels as Becca. All are assisted by a thoughtful script by Ray Wright (Pulse, Case 39) and Scott Kosar (The Amityville Horror and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes) which is heavy on characterization.
The moment when Dutton turns to his wilting deputy and remarks “Don’t ask me why I can’t leave without my wife and I won’t ask you why you can” is sublime proof of the care and attention evident throughout Eisner’s considerate reworking. Little narrative touches such as this set it apart from the crowd although dialogue is secondary to the pressure-cooker tension. One thing which struck me upon primary viewing was just how bleak and mean-spirited The Crazies actually is. It offers no solution to the outbreak which is causing the inhabitants of Ogden Marsh to turn into vicious rabid killers and instead the only thing we need worry our pretty little heads about is whether or not anyone will survive the epidemic.
Whilst attention is lavished on our central characters, the same can not be said for the military forces and this is not to the film’s detriment. They are faceless and sinister, clad in hazmat clobber and gas masks and appearing like a Harry Warden tribute band. Their ambiguity, coupled with their no-nonsense actions, makes for some of the film’s standout moments and it would also appear that The Prowler’s pitchfork has also been pilfered. The scene where Judy is strapped to a gurney while her roommates are ventilated one by one is an absolute doozy and shows just how reluctant Eisner is to pussyfoot around. Similarly, a one-way trip through an infected car wash also shows his adroitness when it comes to building us up then callously knocking us straight back down.
The crazies themselves are, would you believe, crazy. Unlike the shuffling zombies we have become accustomed to, their eyes suggest something far darker than any mere will to nosh. In this respect, parallels can be drawn to the rage-plagued vermin of 28 Days Later as one look is all it takes to suck a little more air from your lung baskets. Bleak and uncompromising it may be but there’s also a streak of dark humor running through Eisner’s film which is all the more amusing given that The Crazies is otherwise such a straight-faced movie.
Not many of y’all will have even seen Romero’s original and that actually works in its favor as the knives aren’t sharpened and obsessive fanboys aren’t on hand to pick it apart at the seams. The original focused on both the survivors and the military whereas Eisner’s take hones in on the former, thus keeping it more streamlined. As a horror flick in its own right it is solid, suspenseful and contains more than enough jolts, provokes enough grimaces and provides enough entertainment to be taken entirely on its own considerable merits.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Relies far more on tension than grue but a liberal sprinkling of red sauce does nothing to harm its impact. There is plentiful violence and the FX is well above par but it is the pitchfork incident and its terrifying implications which stuck with me long after the credits ceased rolling.
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