The Crazies (2010)Posted: October 29, 2010
Long time readers of this blog may remember that I previously wrote about George Romero’s 1973 film, “The Crazies.” Romero’s original film was a movie I liked, but I had to admit that it was pretty flawed. I usually have a knee-jerk reaction against remakes, but the 2010 remake of “The Crazies,” by director Breck Eisner is, I think, better than the original.
The basic plot remains the same. The inhabitants of a small, friendly and close knit town in Iowa start going crazy and killing each other. It is eventually revealed that a chemical weapon, code-named “Trixie,” has found it’s way into the water supply. We see the story unfold through the eyes of a leading male, his pregnant wife and his best buddy. The US military arrives and tries to “contain the situation,” but the military’s solution is ultimately ineffective and the situation spirals out of control.
Eisner’s version improves on Romero’s film because Eisner shows us rather than telling us. Romero’s film had a lot of situations in which people like military officers and scientists would talk to each other and thus reveal what was going on. There were also three or four simultaneous story threads and the film switched back and forth between all of them. Eisner spends 99% of his time with the small town’s Sheriff, David Dutten, and we find out things as he finds them out, leading to a lot more suspense and the feeling of a mystery being slowly revealed. The Romero version of “The Crazies” centered around a pair of fire fighters and a nurse; the new version has substituted the sheriff and his deputy for the fire fighters and the town’s doctor, Judy (who is the sheriff’s spouse and pregnant with their first child). Eisner does away with all of the military officers and scientists that populated Romero’s film; the military enters the film early but remains as a group of soldiers in camouflage and gas masks throughout the story. Rather than telling us through lengthy conversations that the “Trixie” chemical/drug got into the town water supply from a crashed military plane, the director shows us by having a rash of people acting erratically infect the town, then a trio of duck hunters find the corpse of a pilot in the swamp, then the sheriff and his deputy find the ruined plane, and then finally the sheriff puts it all together when he figures out that the people who started to get sick first live closest to the water tower, thus they probably drank the contaminated water first.
I can more easily forgive Romero’s lower production values and am not sure that Eisner needed to resort to make-up effects to let us know who was “crazy” and who wasn’t (Romero didn’t use make-up on his “crazies,” he just had them act crazy, which I think might have made the film even creepier — as it is, the ‘crazies’ in Eisner’s version look all wrinkled and bloody-eyed, like zombies). But Eisner’s version really pared down the story to the essential elements. In addition, Eisner’s bigger 2010 budget allowed him to get better acting talent than Romero was able to afford for his 1973 version.