The Crazies (2010) is a remake of the George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) movie of the same name. Romero’s films are known for working on multiple levels; plot, metaphor, social commentary, etc. The Crazies is no different, and this remake retains much of the depth of the original.
Ogden Marsh is a small, peaceful farming town; that is, until an infectious disease is released into the population, turning them into homicidal maniacs. After the first 40 or so minutes of set up, the majority of the film plays like a survival-horror zombie movie. Timothy Olyphant plays the sheriff, naturally, who leads a small band of survivors on a quest to escape the town, avoiding the titular crazies and the military, who is trying to contain the outbreak by any means necessary.
One of great features of Romero’s original is play on just who the ‘crazies’ are. The panic and paranoia that grip the survivors drives them to disparate acts which are scarcely different than those committed by the crazies themselves. When watching the original, it was hard to tell which was which. I half expected the movie to end with a revelation that there hadn’t been a major outbreak at all.
The remake takes a clearer stance on that. The infected are very sick looking, and by the end are given zombie-like makeup. While it does make for a clearer narrative, it loses some of the sense of confusion, which adds greatly to a thriller.
The biggest change in the remake is the removal of the second plot line. In the original, there was a plot about a scientist desperately working on a cure to the virus and constantly running up against bureaucratic road blocks (for instance, every time he wanted to talk to the president, he had to call, and then wait for someone to analyze his voice to ensure that it was him, a process which took hours). In the remake, the government is just a faceless enemy lurking in the background, basically just like the crazies, but better organized.
The scientist plot was actually kind of a drag in the original, it slowed the pace and killed the tension, so its exclusion isn’t a bad thing; although it’s replaced by an awkward expostional technique of having the heroes randomly run into government officials who each tell them part of the back story.
The original movie wasn’t that great, and this remake does improve on it; ironically by taking some of the techniques Romero used in his zombie movies, to improve the horror aspects of the survivors’ trek.
Even so, it’s a fairly straight-forward plot, with no real twists or turns. Timothy Olyphant is great though, and keeps it from feeling like the low budget horror movie that it is.