Press Play: The Crazies

Press Play: The Crazies

Jun 30, 2010

This week's must-see DVD/BD, and why we're lovin' it.

WHAT? The Crazies (2010) on DVD and Blu-ray 

WHO? Directed by Breck Eisner and starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson and Danielle Panabaker 

WHY? This scary redo of George A. Romero's low-budget 1973 horror film is one of the rare remakes that is actually more entertaining than the original. The movie is set in the small Iowa town of Ogden Marsh where a downed military plane accidentally releases a biological weapon into the water supply. The toxin causes people to go mad and lash out violently, like when a father decides to light his home on fire while his wife and young son are trapped inside. Before you can say "satellite surveillance," soldiers in gas masks storm the town and start rounding up the citizens—including Sheriff Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and his pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell), the town doctor—and corralling them into a makeshift quarantine zone. When military roughhousing turns to a use of deadly force as the soldiers start executing the out-of-control citizens, Dutton and his wife escape into the countryside and go on the run with two of their friends—dodging military choppers and random crazies along the way—in a desperate attempt to escape Ogden Marsh before it is wiped off the map. 

The Crazies is gorgeously filmed—way better than a modestly budgeted horror remake has any right to be. The wide shots of the characters traversing the flat, hopelessly exposed fields accents how vulnerable they all are. The camera sometimes moves slowly in a wide arc and you'll jump when you realize there is a still, crazy figure way off to the corner of the frame that is almost unnoticeable because it is slightly out of focus. The actors are a cut above your usual splatter show as well: Olyphant, who plays a lawman on TV's Justified, is at home here; Mitchell knows how to play a tough and resilient heroine after stints in movies like Pitch Black and Silent Hill; Panabaker, who unsuccessfully ran from Jason in the recent Friday the 13th, is becoming the go-to gal for '70s horror remakes; and Anderson keeps you guessing as to just how unstable—and dangerous—his character is. There's plenty of red stuff and inventive violence to please the core horror audience that demands it, but the rest of you will find yourselves caring if some of these people can make it to the end credits—a sign of an expertly crafted thrill ride. 

WHAT ELSE? Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a director's commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette with Eisner, "Paranormal Pandemics," a make-up featurette, "Visual Effects in Motion," two Crazies motion comic episodes and storyboards. Best extra: "The George A. Romero Template," in which the filmmakers and guest commentators comment on Romero's unique political subgenre of horror films including Night of the Living Dead, the original Crazies and Dawn of the Dead , and how the social unrest of the '70s came through in his films during that period. It's a nice little 10-minute retrospective on Romero's early work.

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