Veteran horror director George Romero won a permanent place in the horror movie hall of fame for his continually growing Living Dead series, but aside from Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, the bulk of the director’s work typically falls somewhere between middling and downright terrible. But while Romero has never been a consistent director, he has managed a perfect record of cramming blunt social commentary into just about everything he’s ever made.
Romero’s original version of The Crazies is a fever dream of government paranoia. There’s a lot of screaming and running around, and lots of men in spooky yellow hazmat suits mowing down civilians with machine guns and flame throwers. It’s also kind of laborious and headache inducing. So when news came that Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood, Justified) would be starring in a big budget remake of the film with Sahara director Breck Eisner at the helm, I forwent the usual hand wringing and mouth foaming that I typically reserve for Hollywood attempts at gussying up classic horror movies. The problem with Romero's The Crazies has more to do with tone and pacing than with its premise, and if Dawn of the Dead could get a critically and commercially successful remake, I figured what the hell?
For the most part, my gut feeling on Eisner’s The Crazies was right. It takes Romero’s original, which concerns the accidental release of a bio-weapon on a small town and the government's subsequent attempt at a cover-up, and dials it down a few dozen notches, turning Romero’s frenzied mess into a well paced conspiracy thriller with some pseudo-zombies thrown in for good measure. The movie is like a conspiracy nut’s worst nightmare -- cut out the infected crazy people roaming around and you have what Glenn Beck probably sees every time he blinks. Faceless soldiers drag wholesome small town folk from their homes, round them up into camps and then ship them off for “processing” -- it could double as a public service announcement for the NRA. As if playing genre movie mash-up, Eisner also manages some pretty well crafted horror scenes as well, especially a sequence involving a carwash that perfectly captures why those things kind of give me the creeps.
I think it’s the sound. WHUDWHUDWHUDWHUDWHUDftftftftftftftftftftft
Tomorrow: British people! A demon! Night! Night of the Demon (1957)!