Something is seriously wrong in the small town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa. Thanks to a plane crash, a biological toxin has seeped into the water supply, turning those infected into bloodthirsty killers for 48 hours until they reach their own painful death. As Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) is trying to find out what it causing this, the U.S. government sends in the Army to contain the outbreak. When his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) is mistakenly thought to be infected, Dutton heads back into town to rescue her along with his deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson). It becomes a race as they try to battle back to the safe haven the government has set up for the infected, going through not only those that have gone "crazy," but the Army itself who is not showing any real discrimination on who they choose to kill.
I saw The Crazies back when it was in theaters earlier this year, and found myself immensely enjoying it, but I had reservations about watching it again; how many movies turn out to not be as good the second time around? Although it loses a little bit of oomph upon a second viewing, The Crazies is an excellent horror film and the best one to come out in 2010 thanks to some good effects, a great lead, and some genuine scares.
Timothy Olyphant deserves full credit for keeping The Crazies afloat. He is absolutely excellent in his role as the determined sheriff who will do what is necessary to keep his group alive. His intensity and talent manage to shine amongst some of the weaker aspects of the movie and he is someone you can easily root for. Joe Anderson as his deputy Russell Clank also gives a really good performance. He is actually from England, but he pulls off an American Southern accent really well and he has the most conflict of any character as someone who is slowly succumbing to the disease.
The Crazies is good because it feels real. Although it is set up like a zombie movie and has many of the characteristics of those kinds of films (not shocking since George A. Romero was behind the original version of The Crazies back in the '70s), what happens in this movie is far more feasible. Someone creating a neurotoxin that messes with our minds to the point of homicidal insanity? How has that not happened already, you know? The way the government also pokes their nose in, herding all the infected into an enclosed space like cattle and treating anyone left behind with a "shoot on sight" mentality is also pretty damn feasible and that's scary in and of itself.
Now even though it isn't a zombie movie, it'll still feel like one and if you've seen any George A. Romero films before, you know how it'll play out. Instead of a group of survivors taking on zombies, it's a group of survivors taking on slightly deranged living humans. I have watched a lot of zombie movies in my time, so there were times in The Crazies where I felt I could tune out; since it was following the blueprint that has been used for decades, I would be able to snap back in and know exactly what was going to happen next. The Crazies plays very formulaic like that.
The Crazies may be formulaic at points and some of the acting may be a little questionable at times, but considering the mainstream horror films that have been coming out in recent years, this is almost a masterpiece by comparison. It is well directed and has some great special effects (the makeup designs for the infected are zombie reminiscent but not over the top and look like something that could actually happen to someone). Timothy Olyphant is wonderful as the lead, and The Crazies is the kind of horror movie that doesn't feel over the top; in all actuality, this very situation could actually happen so if I were you, I'd stay out of Iowa for a little while.
The Crazies is packed to the brim with special features. There's the obligatory audio commentary by director Breck Eisner as well as all the trailers for the film. Also included are some very interesting documentaries on the makeup artist, creating the pandemic, and my personal favorite entitled "The George A. Romero Template" where the filmmaker, cast, and some of the more horror-savvy press look back on the impact of Romero's body of work as well as his "screw the system" attitude towards Hollywood. It get's a little bit too self-serving, but you can't deny that Romero's films have created the blueprint for zombie movies that will be followed until they finally stop getting made.