In 2010, Breck Eisner’s remake of the 1973 film of the same name was released. Now, even over a decade later, The Crazies remains one of the most unrivalled horror movies of the 2010s.
Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell star as David and Judy Dutton, the local sheriff and doctor of the fictional town, Ogden Marsh. Idyllic bliss is shattered after a mysterious virus spreads, turning the townsfolk into violent psychopaths. The couple are thrust into a fight for survival against their crazed neighbours and a hostile military presence.
At first, David starts to uncover the cause for the erratic behaviour – a biological toxin accidentally released into the town’s water supply. Believing the infected to be the current threat, it doesn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse when gas-mask wearing soldiers show up and get a little too trigger happy.
The film wastes no time in propelling the story forward. Within the first five minutes, the serene ambiance of the town is compromised when David is forced to shoot an infected resident. In Ogden Marsh, everyone knows everyone, making David and Judy’s journey all the more devastating.
Eisner maintains a psychologically enigmatic tone throughout. We are constantly waiting in suspense, questioning the morality of each character. Are they acting on survival instinct or is the toxin seeping through them? It is made clear that the virus affects everyone differently; some appear to have temporary restraint on their symptoms, some experience uncontrollable rage and others join forces to cause anarchy. As David and Judy – who seem to be immune – question who they can trust, we are also left guessing who will be the next to turn on them.
Both Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell are a pleasure to watch; the chemistry between them radiates so naturally that it is difficult to envision anyone else as the couple. Their performances come as no surprise really. Olyphant is not a stranger to the lawman persona (Deadwood, Justified) and Mitchell is a horror veteran (Pitch Black, Silent Hill). The pair prove to be a remarkable duo and keep you on the edge of your seat.
The acting is strong and convincing, especially a memorable performance from Joe Anderson – who plays Deputy Russell Clank. Anxiety nearly always looms whenever Anderson is on-screen. His character is totally unpredictable, and he impressively balances Russell’s derangement with his more rational, humane side.
Eisner impresses with his unique and clever camera techniques, building the tension and setting us up for unexpected – for the most part- jump scares. Complete with an appropriately fitting score by Mark Isham, Eisner sets a new standard for the genre. Almost everything (locations included) we see on-screen at the beginning serves a purpose for a later point of the film. It is this sort of attention to detail that allows for the movie to stand out.
The film adopts a minimalistic approach and does not rely on special effects or dated tropes to be scary. Even so, the makeup for each ‘crazy’ is superb and genuinely horrifying – especially as the infection courses through them. They do not look ridiculously over the top or like standard zombies, with Eisner opting for a touch of realism – adding to the horror. However, it is the fear of the unknown that takes over as you wonder what lurks behind every corner. Would you rather it be your manic neighbour with a bloody pitchfork or flame-thrower toting soldiers?
One noteworthy scene takes place in a car wash. Shot entirely from their car’s interior, the sequence is claustrophobic and stress inducing, and you can empathise with the characters’ desperation. The camera work here is striking and unsettling given that you cannot see what is going on outside of the car. In my opinion, it’s worth watching the film for this scene alone.
I’m glad that even a decade after it’s release, The Crazies still holds up as well as it did back then. A truly intelligent and gripping piece of cinema. It is well paced, frightening and wraps up with a bang. Besides, Timothy Olyphant teaming up with Radha Mitchell should be enough reason for you to watch!