Admittedly, the bar was set low, but “The Crazies” remake easily bests the 1973 original by George A. Romero. The horror legend is hit-or-miss, and his virus thriller was a noble miss.
Of all people, “Sahara” helmer Breck Eisner shapes the source material into a picture that while not exactly frightening, is quite effective and eerily relevant. By showing you in the first frames that Ogden Marsh, Iowa, is in flames and total chaos, you spend the remaining hour and a half anticipating just how this kind, quite small town will meet its deadly fate.
Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) keeps the peace in town “ a job that’s pretty easy, with all those nice farm folk around. Then one day, a man shows up at the baseball game armed, and David is forced to shoot him dead. The incident turns out to be not isolated, as more and more residents start showing signs of blank-eyed insanity.
The discovery of a paratrooper’s corpse and his downed plane in the lake leads David and his fellow authorities to believe a virus is airborne. What they don’t immediately piece together is that the U.S. military is several steps ahead of them.
The first part of “The Crazies” is really interesting, and it makes too quick a jump into the inevitable chase portion of the film, which goes on for too long. Still, there are several tense moments and set pieces in said chase, including a horrifying car wash and the auto shop-set finale.
“The Crazies” isn’t exactly a showcase for great actors, either, but Olyphant and onscreen spouse Radha Mitchell are just that, elevating the material above mere B territory. This one’s better than you’d expect, with enough gore to satisfy horror fans, but not too much to scare off those more interested in its thriller aspects.
Among the extras, check out the two “motion comics.” Better yet, go to your local comic shop and track down the four printed issues, which serve as prequels to secondary characters. Doing so beforehand will enhance your appreciation for the film. “Rod Lott