Tuesday, June 15, 2010

THE CRAZIES (Blu-Ray)

I’ve always been quite fond of George A. Romero’s under appreciated horror film, THE CRAZIES, and when I heard that they were remaking it, my expectations were appropriately low, especially considering how most modern genre remakes turn out. But I have to admit that I enjoyed director Breck Eisner’s version, also called THE CRAZIES (2010), a lot more than I expected.

The plot is essentially the same as the 1973 original – a government-created biological weapon that causes people to become homicidal maniacs (code named “Trixie”) accidentally gets into the water supply of a small American town. Once the effects start to manifest, the government moves in to contain the town and cover-up the truth of what’s happened. Several townspeople, apparently uninfected, try to escape the closed-off town and avoid the gas-masked, hazmat-suited soldiers that appear to be ordered to kill every inhabitant. In this version, the survivors are the town sheriff (Timothy Olyphant, JUSTIFIED), his pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell, SILENT HILL), his deputy (Joe Anderson, THE RUINS) and a young woman (Danielle Panabaker, SKY HIGH).

The story – with its blatant anti-government paranoia - plays almost as well today as it did during the original’s Vietnam/Watergate era. As with the original, the infection starts slowly, with a couple of seemingly-unrelated incidents, but escalates rapidly. And when the government steps in to “contain” the outbreak, the already-frightening situation becomes nightmarish. These “crazies” are, in many ways, scarier than zombies or the “rage” creatures of something like 28 DAYS LATER, because their madness is not always immediately evident, and it manifests differently in each subject. Some go about their killing coldly and mechanically, others revel in bloodlust, and others actually are freed to pursue their own previously-suppressed violent impulses….

Eisner’s film is very-well paced, and refreshingly straight-forward in its approach to the material. Special effects are mostly of a practical nature, the cinematography and editing are masterfully understated. There are no hyperkinetic swishes and swoops, ADD-flash cutting, or overblown, unconvincing CGI set-pieces… in fact, the comparatively-little CGI that is used, is used particularly well.

Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray high-def edition of THE CRAZIES sports a sterling 1080p, 2.40:1 widescreen transfer and robust Dolby Digital 5.1/PCM 5.1 audio. There are copious supplemental features, beginning with an informative audio commentary by Eisner. There are at least five behind-the-scenes featurettes, a CRAZIES “motion comic,” trailers, and a nice tribute to George Romero. The package also includes a Digital Copy disc.

The DVD edition features a standard-definition 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer and 5.1. Dolby Digital sound, and all of the same bonus features.

I’ve heard some negative reactions to the movie from some of my friends and online acquaintances, but personally, I thought that Eisner’s film was a worthy remake, an effective, well-acted thriller, and a refreshingly thoughtful and finely-crafted piece of fear-filmmaking. As Romero remakes go, it’s not quite as successful, as, say Zach Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004), but much better than most of the others. I recommend it.

BUY: The Crazies [Blu-ray]