The Crazies is based on the 1973 film by zombie maestro George A. Romero. And like so many of these horror remakes, there's an argument to be made that it doesn't need to exist. There always is. But unlike most of those other remakes, there's another argument to be made that it's one thing that those others aren't: it's a remake of a movie that wasn't all that great to begin with. Remaking a great movie seems pointless, but remaking a bad or mediocre one seems justified.
Breck Eisner, of Sahara fame, updates the tale of a small town gone mad for a 21st century audience that's more accustomed to Zack Snyder's fast zombies than they are Romero's slow ones. The director delivers a vibrancy to a well trodden sub-genre of horror, delivering effective, if often schlocky, thrills at just the right intervals.
The gore is kept at just the right level, straddling the line between being full-on enough but not going over the edge as to turn off the viewer. With a post-apocalyptic story like this, a certain amount of bloody flesh and guts is inevitable - heck, even entirely necessary - and Eisner knows this. But neither is this entering Hostel territory.
In the small town of Ogden Marsh, one day the town sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) notices something isn't right with some of the locals. After killing a man wielding a shotgun at a local baseball game, things go from bad to worse and more and more people starting showing signs that they're not wired correctly upstairs. Before long the military gets involved and people are either held in quarantine or put on buses to get them out of the town. But as things start to get out of even the government's control, it's every man, woman, and child for themselves.
With a clichéd apocalyptic story like that a movie better have some tricks up its sleeve to set itself apart from the rest. And while The Crazies isn't necessarily overflowing with creative and original ideas, there are a few surprises in there to catch the audience off guard. An audience, it should be added, who's seen a thousand of these movies. In this day and age it's hard to wow an audience or feed them anything they aren't already more than familiar with the taste of. But this is an effective film; while not breaking much new ground, it delivers exactly what you'd want from a film of its type.
As is inevitable, the film has its share of problems. It takes a while to get into it, even at the relatively brisk runtime of around 100 minutes. The plot is left ambiguous in relation to just what this virus or sickness is, and more importantly how and why it got released. Now this technique can be used if done well, but rather than feeling artistically complex and ambiguous in a sort of "figure it out for yourself after the credits roll" sort of way, it just feels like the filmmakers couldn't come up with a good way of explaining everything. Perhaps the reason was never fully thought through, who knows. The end result was confusion rather than admiration on my part.