FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Feb 25, 2010

The Crazies

While I could simply launch into my review of The Crazies (2010), I feel the need to clue you all in on the circus that was last night's screening. Apparently it was an event staged for horror press; non-genre journalists attended a regular ol' red carpet screening the night before. Folks like myself (and those from all the major horror outlets) endured an "immersive" affair that began a week or so ago, when we had to call to RSVP for the...quarantine.

Last night our car was stopped at the studio gate by "Army guys" (some in gas masks, all brandishing rifles) who checked our IDs and wanted to know if we'd imbibed any tap water that day. I lied and said no- I'm clearly not to be trusted at the End of Days. We drove deep into the "quarantine zone" past more shouting, flashlight-waving army guys and sheriff's department officers, past humvees and warning signs and flashing lights. After we finally parked, we were herded into a line where it would be determined whether or not we were "infected". Army guys checked my credentials while "doctors" took my temperature (in my ear, thank jebus) we were apparently "clean", we were given green wristbands and yelled at some more. Guns were pointed at us as "MOVE MOVE MOVE!" was barked, Crazies on gurneys pleaded for help, other crazies were restrained at was all very loud and bewildering. Finally we got on a school bus and were driven...not the half-block to the movie theater, but to another location. We were forced off the bus and told to walk single-file...of course, we were heading to the theater, but now we had to walk a greater distance than it was from the parking garage where we started. And it was raining. And there was so much yelling! Despite all the threats, none of the journalists seemed to "hustle".

Finally we got to the fucking theater. Before the movie began there was a "security breach" and Army guys hauled off a Crazy. I wondered why we were sitting in a movie theater when clearly the world was ending and there were people dying right outside. Then the movie began.

Was all of that fun? Sure it was. I probably would have rather just, you know, gone to a screening, but I do enjoy those haunted houses that pop up during October, you know? While the extravaganza didn't influence my opinion of the film, I suppose that's a possibility with some critics so bear that in mind when you read reviews. Shit like this goes on and perks are given to journalists...and while I certainly don't want to accuse anyone or any websites of giving out good reviews solely due to said perks (or the opportunity to be quoted on a poster or ad), I think you should know about the wooing. I mean, I haven't even gotten to the after-party yet.

The small town of Ogden Marsh, IA falls apart quickly after residents suddenly become...homicidally weird. A man locks his family in the house and sets the house on fire. The town drunk brings a shotgun to a high school baseball game. People are just plain jerks.

Some hunters find a dead body out in a marsh; his tangled parachute indicates that he was a pilot, so Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) goes in search of the downed plane. It's found a short time later and Dutton quickly deduces that this water feeds into Ogden Marsh's drinking supply- something from the wreckage could be causing the widespread wackadoo-ness.

Before Dutton or his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell), the town's doctor, can figure out a way to help people or stop the spread, the Army sweeps in. They quickly round up the denizens of Ogden Marsh, executing the infected and quarantining the town. The Duttons, along with a couple of their colleagues, need to get the fuck out of Dodge.

If you're familiar at all with the 1973 film upon which The Crazies is based, you'll see that the plot hasn't much changed. Trixie, a biological weapon developed by the military, is still to blame for the onset of violence. The Army still takes drastic measures to contain the outbreak. What's changed in the 35 years since George Romero's effort is style and approach. While the original film was subtle by no means (so much yelling), the "Crazies" themselves were a bit more insidious than they are in their modern incarnation. The developing illness was a gradual thing, and it was almost impossible to tell who had murderous intent until it was too late. Here, the incubation period is fairly short and there's a physical change to the infected...they get grody. They're also extremely violent, but it's of the 'kill kill' variety; again, if you've seen Romero's film you'll realize that there's a lot of abhorrent violence one can inflict that doesn't simply mean "murder". The Crazies '10 never pushes that boundary, despite plenty of opportunities to do so.

Director Breck Eisner's effort is very solid. It's well-made, it looks terrific, and it's a hell of a lotta fun. There are some very welcome touches of humor, there's plenty of gore and action, the cast makes us care a bit about characters that aren't all that interesting. It's possible that The Crazies would be best seen with a group, so everyone can scream and yell and have those sorts of communal horror experiences. It's that kind of movie. It's also worth noting that the editing, thank Christ, is not of the frenetic variety. Even when the action is at its height, you can see everything and tell what's going on. I wish that approach to horror filmmaking wasn't noteworthy, but these days it is.

The Crazies is also the kind of movie that relies heavily (I can't stress that word enough) on jump scares- enough that it gets a little grating after a while. Music stings and loud noises, one can only take so much, you know? Eisner also goes to the well a few too many times in certain instances, employing the same trick over and over: you know, one of those JUMP SCARE - "It's just me!" moments repeated several times, or "Oh no, the Crazy is gonna kill me oh no oh no oh no PHEW my friend saved me!" executed so often that you quickly realize the protagonists are never going to die.

Overall, would I recommend The Crazies? Yeah. It's a good time. It's not necessarily a thoughtful time- whether that matters to you or not may determine if you drop your 15 bucks on it. If you're looking for a film that's going to provoke discourse (beyond the requisite logic issues that spring up) or tap into, you know, grand themes or give insights into human nature, well, you'd best keep looking. Still, you could do a a lot worse- The Crazies is better than any number of recent theatrical horror releases.

Oh, and Lynn Lowry gets a cameo so it's alright in my book.

So, that was a fucking circus. Music, free drinks, free food; various photo opportunities, the option to get your face done up all Crazy-like; a stuntman set himself on fire for our entertainment. Radha Mitchell and Timothy Olyphant were there to work the crowd. Heidi and I spent some time telling them how we would have liked the film to end, and they laughed at our jokes so that's fine. Ms. Mitchell asked if I enjoyed the movie overall, and I told her basically what I told you above. I mentioned the original film, and we had this exchange:

Her: You what scene I missed from the original?
Me: The rape scene?
Her: Exactly!
Me: Right, you don't know your dad's a Crazy until he's, you know, raping you.
Her: They really should have kept that. It was remarkable.

Then I had a cookie, watched the stuntman burn, and left.

EDITED TO ADD: Shock Till You Drop has a photo gallery of the screening madness.


Verdant Earl said...

I know you were a little meh about the pre and post-party shenanigans, but I would KILL to have have been a part of it. Yup. Murder. I got a couple of folks in mind too, but keep it on the down low, okay?

Stacie Ponder said...

Oh, believe me, I had a really good time. The show they put on was very well-done: it really was like a haunted house attraction. I also enjoyed meeting the cast.

Still, this sort of thing weirds me out a bit when it's done solely for the benefit of the horror journalists. Sooooo much money spent! And sadly, I do know writers who would be influenced by this sort of thing. They're the ones who think it's really fucking cool to write about horror and think they're hot shit. That's all.

But I'm not going to say I didn't have fun, because I did- I just think people should know about it. It wasn't simply a screening. cookie.

MoxieHart said...

Crazy people and the governments trying to contain them are notorious for throwing the best parties.

Stacie Ponder said...

I was so panicked during the screening, plagued with questions. Should I ration my Diet Coke? Why didn't they take us somewhere safe instead of a movie theater? Are the infected watching a different movie?

Life during the apocalypse is very stressful.

Anonymous said... respect for Mitchell jumped up with that exchange. I'll probably wait for the Blu-Ray though...

Frank White said...

Do we at least still have old ladies attempting to sweep the outdoors?

Stacie Ponder said...

Well, there's an old lady but no sweeping. :(

Quiet Wyatt said...

I've secretly believed that Radha Mitchell is "the bomb" ever since Pitch Black. Now, thanks to your conversation with her, I know she is.

Ryan Clark said...

I like that Radha Mitchell admitted that she wanted a rape scene in the movie. She's great, haha.

But I think you've convinced me to wait for video to see this one. Jump scares irritate me quite a lot, as I found out from watching Drag Me to Hell. Maybe they will be less annoying on the small screen. lol

Andy said...

Sounds like a blast, of the old "William Castle" variety. Love showmanship like that.

Perching Path said...

Y'know, even if I hadn't been here when the G-20 besieged Pittsburgh last year, I don't think having people in military uniforms shout at me would have a positive impact on my impression of a film. But I suppose that just means I don't have what it takes to be a Horror Journalist. Which is fair enough.

Stacie Ponder said...

Hmm, not sure why you bolded, italicized, and capitalized "horror journalist" unless that was meant as a dig of some sort at...something. Surely you agree that horror journalists exist? Someone like Ryan Rotten or Staci Layne Wilson or Dave Alexander would qualify, I'd think. There are business journalists, music journalists, etc.

Or maybe you just decided to give your comment some flair.

At any rate, the hullabaloo was off-putting, though fun.

Unknown said...

I was there last night too - Not at all expecting what went on, but was glad to have experienced it.
I pretty much said the same things to someone else today who asked me how the movie was - That there were cheesy moments and quite a few jump scares (which don't bother me, but I know a lot of people hate that kind of horror film element).
And I completely agree with the suggestion that this is the type of movie to see with a group of people. I don't think this is the type of movie I would watch on my DVD player by myself at home. I enjoyed the movie, but I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it as much as I did if there weren't people jumping/gasping/laughing/clapping around me.

Anonymous said...

Wow, your screening was waaaaaaay more fun and eventful than mine.

For me, I enjoyed it more due to the connection to the characters which was completely lacking in the original. And there was some great set pieces. Car wash scene? :shudders:

Perching Path said...

Whoa, hey, let me clarify. There are horror journalists, and that's fine by me. There wasn't meant to be any insult there, except maybe a facetious one aimed at me.

Now allow me to over-analyze what I wrote at ridiculous length:
If I were speaking, "horror journalists" would have been said pseudo-heroically, intrepidity-implying-ly, as a set-up to be undercut by my last sentence. Because the situation was faux-harrowing but I would have found it actually unpleasant. With the mild humour arising from how that's obviously not actually why I'm not a horror journalist, because intrepidity in the face of shouting guys isn't actually a job requirement. My voice would have conveyed it, my text didn't. Darn.

Stacie Ponder said...

The car wash was great, and so was the nursery scene. Lots to like here, it's just very action-oriented. Not that that's a bad thing, I'm just saying. It's like Resident Evil (the game) versus Resident Evil 4.

No, I can't go a day without talking about Resident Evil.

Stacie Ponder said...

Oh, and no worries, Perching! I getcha. Thanks for clarifying!

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Color me jealous. I have to pay to see The Crazies. And on my Birthday, too.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

I love Radha Mitchell. Good to hear that she's pretty cool in person!

Craig Blamer said...

Just the fact the "Horror Journalist" is now considered something to put on a business card is too cool for words.

Sign me up to be embedded.

Unless it's for a remake of the remake of The Fog.

CashBailey said...

You gotta have some love for Olyphantastic!

He was Seth Bullock, for Christ's sake!

Robert H. said...

Three words regarding THE CRAZIES:


Dale said...

Hmm. I'm glad that it's not a crapfest, because the original The Crazies was highly disappointing IMO, but I really liked the concept and have been hoping this one would satisfy. But it kinda sounds like they've changed the Crazies so they're no longer whimsical as well as homicidal, which would be a pity, because that mix was by far my favourite thing about the original.

CWL said...

I'd welcome a resurgence of that kind of gimmickry and ballyhoo, personally. Why should all the bullshit be on the screen? And just think about the punchbowls of cocaine and brown rice & vegetables at the Showgirls 2 premiere.

I liked this Crazies, although it got a little old seeing every Crazy sans Lowry exhibit psychotic killKILL craziness. Mental illness is pretty diverse. I would have liked more lawn-sweeping or talk of the Eisenhower/UFO summit.

Cherra said...

I saw it over the weekend and it wasn't bad. I actually enjoyed it. The characters aren't particularly well developed, but they don't need to be. There's not much to think's all put out there in front of you. There was action and humor and lots of crowd participation (very similar to seeing Snakes on a Plane in the theater). If I have one complaint, it's the jump scares. I agree with you; it did get grating after a while. Overall, it was a fun time though.

Less Lee Moore said...

I finally saw this last night.

I was impressed overall, particularly by the music and camera work.

I have to say, I really didn't like the way the crazies looked all gross and acted murderous. I thought the original was far more effective in building tension by having them look like everyone else.

And yes, I miss the rape scene as totally creeptastic as that sounds.

Dead In Hell said...

Late to the game here, but I really liked this one. Most of that is due to Timothy Olyphant, who is just the best. I welcomed the action, in an age of found footage and torture porn and horribly ineffectual protagonists it was a blast to actually get a character who got things done rather than just crying in a locked room for 90 minutes. And the film was appreciably, as mentioned, high quality on a technical level. Which is another rarity these days for horror, with the aforementioned found footage and all the genres I like most being relegated to SOV hell.

My one real complaint is concerning the satellite image stuff thrown in between scenes. I was plenty engaged by what was happening with these characters, I didn't need some barely formed ROTLD-style government evil ending thing, certainly not one so heavily telegraphed throughout the film. The message was already quite clear.