Hollywood’s being eating itself for generations. It’s not a startlingly new trend for brain-dead producers to stumble across an old film and think that it deserves a remake; only with more explosions and nudity. Hell, Hitchcock even went to the trouble of remaking his own films. Horror films have been enjoying – if that’s the right word – a particularly fertile period of remakes, re-imaginings and reboots (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Elm Street et al) and drilling down even further you have the films of George A Romero; the most famous of all horror directors. Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of Romero’s 1978 masterpiece Dawn of the Dead was an achievement in that it didn’t overly piss on the grave of its source material. Since then Romero himself has added another three films to the Dead canon, with diminishing returns.
The Crazies is one of Romero’s lesser known films but one that adheres strictly to the goofy-spectacled director’s roll call of mandatory tropes; (i) rural town Middle America peopled by God-fearing innocents who succumb to (ii) a shady government cover up of an unknown disaster leading to (iii) out of control infected inhabitants pursuing a (iv) plucky group of survivors, one of which will surely be (v) pregnant, another of which will undoubtedly (vi) get infected by the unknown virus and take a bullet, all the while (vii) lawlessness and gallons of blood ensue. Of course the metaphor of an out of control military freely executing citizens is, sadly, becoming universal (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan… take your pick) and whilst obvious, it isn’t necessarily ham-fisted. Tim Olyphant (Deadwood, Justified) is excellent as the uptight town Sheriff and Joe Anderson (Control) channels southern hick extraordinarily well for an English toff and I’m pretty sure Romero himself made a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ cameo. The Crazies is a solid, if graciously slow, film blessed with some well balanced and expressive cinematography of big sky country and one of the better remakes on offer.