Plenty of big scares in Crazies remake

Article Published: Mar. 4, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Plenty of big scares in Crazies remake

Brett Rickaby, Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell go mad in The Crazies.

It's hard to find good, scary horror movies these days - the state of horror in cinema has simply shifted too far toward gore (which isn't scary) and too far away from the unknown (which is scary). Bad horror films are a dime a dozen, it seems, so you have to enjoy the good ones when you can find them.

Although director Brent Eisner's The Crazies won't blow away audiences with new ideas - it's a remake of the 1973 George A. Romero film and has many familiar plot devices - it will scare them. Led by fantastic cinematography, excellent acting and a furious pace, Crazies looks and feels like a good old-fashioned horror film from the 1970s or '80s.

Set in the very small, fictional town of Ogden Marsh in Iowa, Crazies follows Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant, Hitman) and his doctor wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell, Silent Hill), as the try to figure out what's happening to the people around them. Town residents are beginning to get very sick and act strange - then they begin to go mad and turn violent.

This is only the setup, however, as the film is full of surprises and wacky plot twists that are about impossible to predict. The problem frequently associated with previews - that you "see the whole movie in three minutes" - can't happen here, because all the previews contained was material from the film's first 30 minutes.

Most of the plot twists aren't new to this film, but what is unique is how character-driven the plot becomes. These characters make decisions that make sense with their characters instead of having actions determined by the plot that would require them doing stupid things and throwing logic to the wind. Olyphant and Mitchell are both fantastic as they create believable, genuine and likable characters. They react naturally to each ridiculous situation they face, which is more than one can say about the characters in most horror films.

The work of cinematographer Maxime Alexandre and composer Mark Isham are vital to this film's success, as both men avoid typical horror movie cliches. Alexandre's photography is never too dark or too bright, and the grainy feel works to create both the small town horror feeling. Isham doesn't punctuate the moments with loud moments that tell viewers it's time to be scared; he instead chooses to keep it simple and doesn't give away any big moments with ominous music.

Eisner also seems to understand that horror isn't achieved by showing lots of bloody, gory images, and Crazies is a film that's extremely violent but not gory. Unlike director Rob Zombie (the Halloween remakes) or producer Michael Bay (recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes), who indulge in images so disgusting they'd make surgeons feels nauseous, Eisner turns away from the acts of violence and focuses on the responses of the main characters.

My only complaint with the film is that it has a few "tells," or shots that make it possible to accurately predict something that's about to happen that might otherwise be totally surprising.

Several moments that could have been shocking weren't just because the shot was framed suspiciously around an object that had nothing to do with what was happening.

On the flip side, Eisner does successfully create a few false-tells - using typical horror cliches to create one expectation, then going somewhere completely different within moments.

Some might find the final act of The Crazies to be a little too over-the-top, as the obstacles faced by the Duttons become more and more extreme, but I think most people will find this appealing.

While logic must be thrown out the door more than once (because that's not physically possible!), I found myself happy to toss logic aside in return for interesting action scenes and good scares.

In the end, that's exactly what The Crazies is: unbelievable and often ridiculous, but also fun and full of scares - especially if you're a fan of horror movies, but are sick of being disgusted more than frightened.

The Crazies, rated R for bloody violence and language, is currently playing at the Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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