An “Olyphant” never forgets…especially when you brutally murder every person he knows in the town he’s sworn to protect!
Timothy Olyphant plays Sheriff David Dutton as he struggles to escape the formerly peaceful town of Ogden Marsh with his wife, played by the always intense Radha Mitchell, and his faithful deputy, Joe Anderson, after the remaining citizens have gone, you guessed it, CRAZY-in Breck Eisner’s remake of George Romero’s The Crazies (1973). The madness is the result of an Army cargo plane carrying biowarfare toxins crashing into Ogden Marsh’s local water supply. Having not seen the original, this review will be focused on Eisner’s film alone, and I’m not “crazy” about it.
I promise that’s the last “crazy” pun.
Eisner’s competent direction demonstrates the All-American qualities of Ogden Marsh early in the picture, making the initial Crazies incidents all the more disturbing, particularly when a man walks into the outfield of the local High School’s opening baseball game with a loaded shotgun. Eisner’s wisely plays up the “This sort o' shit don’t happen here” factor, as a local farmer burns his family alive in their home. An almost throw away moment of old-school bureaucratic incompetence occurs when Dutton, having learned the threat is in the water supply and wants to shut it off temporarily, is rebuffed by the Mayor (John Aylward), as it would be bad for the farming business.
The film contains quite a few genuine scares in addition to the above-mentioned baseball field and farmhouse, making particularly good use of sound effects to build tension in a key sequence. You will never go into a carwash with the same feeling of comfort and safety again. Or at the very least, you will not be so frustrated with a bad buffing job after you see how angry the attendants could get.
The Crazies themselves are less than memorable. These are not zombies, vampires, monsters, or any other form of undead creature. They are your friends and neighbors that have gotten very sick. They reminded me of the villagers in early sections of Resident Evil 4 : sickly and homicidal, but not particularly exciting. At least not until the end, when our heroes accidently blunder into the Redneck Crazies secret “Lair of Yuck.” But even these Rednecks didn't want the Duttons to squeal like pigs, they just wanted to eat them.
Ironically the most disturbing imagery had nothing to do with the titular Crazies, but with the U.S. Army. Having discovered the location of their downed aircraft, the Army rounds up everyone in Ogden Marsh in the middle of the night, forces them onto buses, takes them to a camp where they are poked, prodded, tested, separated from their loved ones, and not told anything about what is going on. After this, the driving push of the film is escaping the town... which involves a lot of walking.
Lord of the Rings-level walking.
The film drags here. Not because it's too long, but because there’s too little actually going on-and what does occur is not particularly threatening. When the Army is ready to kill everyone in a 60 mile radius, random crazy people are just not as daunting a threat.
With the exception of a truly remarkable example of the "Will to Win” by Olyphant, the second half of the film drags to its predictable conclusion complete with sequel setup. But, if there's a second film, the Duttons' “are never gonna survive, unless [they] get a little….”
Ok. I lied. One more pun.