News of another Romero rehash (or just a remake of anything in general) usually inspires more groans than mirth. And after Tom Savini’s misguided Night of the Living Dead retread and the shallow drudgery of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, why shouldn’t it? However, a remake of The Crazies was an interesting concept in that it was very possible that a remake could improve on the heavy-handed original.
David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) is the sheriff of Ogden Marsh, a small town in Iowa. One day, he is forced to shoot a local resident, who stalks onto the town football field with a shotgun while a game is in play. The gunman appears to be in a coma, a zombie-like state of murderous rage, which is eventually linked to an army plane crash in the marshes near the town. It turns out that the plane has dropped something in the water. The arrival of the army on the scene only makes things worse.
So…is it any better? A funny beginning promises something new or, at least, entertaining, but this bleak tale of a town’s vicious containment by gas-masked soldiers leaves no cliché behind. The film offers no surprises and the violence isn’t entertaining or effective as its all left unseen in the vein of your typical 15-rated horror film. Gone are the days of adult-orientated splatter cinema, evidently.
Romero’s film was a critique on American foreign policy, particularly in Vietnam. The remake doesn’t angrily politicise its story, which could be a good thing. Romero’s original was so obviously based on the war in Vietnam that it forgot to be a horror film, becoming almost a pseudo-docudrama. While a film like Paul WS Anderson’s woeful Death Race becomes a pointless exercise by removing the satire of the original Death Race 2000 (which is a masterpiece of both social satire and entertainment), The Crazies remake is improved by removing the clumsy preaching of the original. In fact it’s the best Romero remake and it does move along.
One of its main disadvantages is that you would be hard pressed to care. It is a film full of carnage, but without the required horror. The film goes into all the gory detail that it can as a 15-rated film, but it is never effectively horrible. A better film with an apocalyptic theme, something like John Hillcoat’s The Road, takes its time and allows a palpable sense of foreboding and doom to pervade the story. This version of The Crazies has all the blood, but none of the power. The problem is that there is absolutely nothing that you haven’t seen before. The Crazies is a film has very little to say for itself, with even the ending revealing it to be the same old story we are all familiar with.