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Philly2Philly Movie Review: The Crazies drives nerve endings insane

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The remake of George Romero’s  cult classic The Crazies  is above and beyond expectations. The story is thin, but director Breck Eisner  keeps the pace fast "The Crazies"and the suspense cranked up to the maximum.

If you are a fan of horror films, zombie flicks, or getting scared out of your mind, The Crazies  is the one to beat. Somewhat of an underdog entering theatres this weekend, the remake of George Romero’s cult classic is an intense, entertaining ride.

Eisner hardly leaves any room to breathe, literally jumping into the horror within ten minutes of the credits. In the small, quaint town of Ogden Marsh, something strange is happening to the residents. When the town drunk storms the little league field wielding a shotgun, Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) is forced to take him down as the townsfolk watch.

Before David can write write the incident off as a freak accident, another man burns down his entire house, trapping his wife and child inside. Soon, several townspeople are showing signs of disorientation, from repetition of words to long silent gazes. When the violence starts erupting into frenzy, the military make a strange appearance, indicating what appears to be a town quarantine so that the virus can be contained. His wife (Radha Mitchell) is said to be carrying the virus and is taken from him. However, he revolts to free her and escape the area.

To give away more would be a shame, because one of the few things The Crazies has working against it is the plot. The story ends up being fairly thin, which becomes noticeable as the movie travels along, and is even more punctuated by an abrupt, flat ending. Screenwriter Scott Kosar (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) doesn’t give much explanation for the virus, how it’s infecting the town, and really why some escape its wrath. It’s all very simplified to a fault. He also throws too much familiarity into the story. Horror clichés more or less are aplenty here, and you may be able to guess who will live and survive within the first thirty minutes.

That being said, the movie is exceptionally scary at times. Eisner stages one blisteringly intense set piece after another, with each one more dizzying than the last. He knows exactly how to build to the absolute breaking point (which is especially shown in a nerve-wracking scene involving a pitchfork). Anyone with a pulse will be kept uncomfortably on edge throughout this film’s running time.

Acting wise, a movie like The Crazies wouldn’t normally warrant discussion. However, this film really rests on the chemistry between lead performers Olyphant and Mitchell. Playing husband and wife, the two are put through the ringer and then some. The movie takes the time to invest in these characters, and thus the audience is invested in their plight and fate. Olyphant is the right choice here, a naturally charismatic performer who demands attention while on screen. Mitchell has a nice turn too, blending her more nurturing qualities with an edgy survivalist attitude

The Crazies will likely make a moderate impact at the box office, and that’s a little aggravating seeing some of the crap that passes for entertainment these days. A sleeper in its own right, the film is a fast and scary horror flick, and a serious cut above films of this genre. You may just sleep with the light on afterwards.

Contact Jim Teti at itetmij@gmail.com

Photos: Overture Films