the craziesMOVIE REVIEW
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JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
Back in August, 2009 I caught, what the studio folks called, a rough cut of THE CRAZIES. If this was their idea of rough, then Give It to Me Rough!
THE CRAZIES did nothing short of blow the audience right out of our seats with plenty of scenes to shock us one minute and have us cheering the next. There were a few slight missteps - but what movie doesn't have those? Besides which, one person's slight misstep is another person's... but I'm getting ahead of myself.
All is well in the town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa. The fields are looking fine, everyone seems to be getting along well with each other, and it's a nice day. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant: SCREAM 2, DREAMCATCHER, A PERFECT GETAWAY) is enjoying the day just watching the Little League game. Then a townsman named Rory Hamill (Mike Hickman) comes walking into the game field carrying a shotgun. He doesn't look right, disoriented, and before Sheriff Dutton can talk to the man, he has to forcibly stop him from shooting into the crowd.
That puts a real crimp on the game, the day, and pretty much everything else in a small town. Sheriff Dutton has never had to kill one of his own townfolk before and the matter affects him deeply. Of course, it also affects Rory's wife Peggy (Lisa K. Wyatt: DONNIE DARKO, THE BOX) and their adult son Curt (Justin Wellborn: THE OTHER SIDE, THE SIGNAL, DANCE OF THE DEAD, THE FINAL DESTINATION). Peggy and Curt know Rory would never hurt anyone in Ogden Marsh. There just had to, Had To be a better way than killing Rory like a sick dog.
With a confusing day like this, Sheriff Dutton needs to check in with his wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell: PITCH BLACK, PHONE BOOTH, SILENT HILL, SURROGATES), but any hoped for quality time doesn't last. Dutton gets a call from his deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson: CREEP, THE RUINS). Someone just set their house on fire with their wife and daughter within it. What the hell is going on?
Back in 1968 a lot was going on, but no one suspected that a movie without wide or even limited theatrical release; directed by a nobody out of Pittsburgh named George R. Romero; would become one of the most influential Horror movies of all time. Inspired by the movie THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, starring Vincent Price, Romero took the best of that movie and added his own genius touch, creating a method of storytelling that would stand the test of time.
He used that method again when, in 1973, George released THE CRAZIES. THE CRAZIES took the same line where a few normal people have to fight against the murderous insanity of a bunch of changed people. In THE CRAZIES, Romero went from zombies to the infected. Despite the micro-budget - micro even by today's standards, it worked so well. In fact, Danny Boyle repeated the Romero method when he made 28 DAYS LATER.
In THE CRAZIES, our world and our lives are falling apart as everyone is getting sick and then going bananas as if rabies became a pandemic. Sheriff Dutton begins an investigation but the work is slow and the disease is fast. Before he can even figure it all out, Ogden Marsh is abruptly cordoned off by the government and gun-toting soldiers wearing biohazard suits. Whatever they're there for, saving the lives of the folks in Ogden Marsh doesn't seem to be their priority.
Imagine a lab created variation of the delightful microbe parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, a neurological infection that has been shown to cause Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), which is associated with bursts of aggression in some humans. Basically you become wildly violent with little to no reason for brief, arbitrary moments of time.
Yes, this is a real thing.
Director Brett Eisner, on his first time out in directing a Horror Thriller movie, wisely sticks with the Romero method in telling this tale. Screenwriters Scott Kosar (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE , THE MACHINIST, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR ) and Ray Wright (PULSE, CASE 39) wisely chose to stay as close as possible to the original script without doing a word by word re-enactment like the dreaded PSYCHO of 1999. For writer Kosar, this failed him in the beginning with CHAINSAW, but he found his pace with THE MACHINIST and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. PULSE had a lot of problems, but Ray's screenplay (writing credit shared with Wes Craven) wasn't one of them.
With these folks on the team, what THE CRAZIES becomes is this truly horrifying movie that had the audience screaming at all the right moments. From beginning to end THE CRAZIES is a rock-out hardcore Horror Thriller where the characters are created as the movie moves. And THE CRAZIES moves!
Duncan: Tell you what. You don't ask me why I can't leave here without my wife, and I won't ask you why you can.
When a movie gets applause throughout the film, you've made a damn good movie! Leaving the theater after THE CRAZIES, the whole audience was abuzz at the Horror Thriller greatness. Coming out of a really good movie is like the afterglow of sex, and we were all pretty damn satisfied!
The only misstep I see here, and it's a doozy, is that the movie flat out undeniably ends and ends great! Then, as if apologizing for making such a kick-ass movie, there is a completely unnecessary, tacked on, 30 to 40 second piece badly grafted onto THE CRAZIES for no other reason than to give it a sequel hangnail. And that last bit is so out of step with the rest of the film that, holy shit, it actually betrays the logic setup by the whole film! If this last part is happening, then the rest suddenly makes no sense!
I don't blame the writers or director for that. You don't make an entire great movie in one direction and then jump the track and staple some MTV crap on at the end. Someone else in the pipeline did that.
Me, I'm able to give that very last bit the respect it deserves, none at all. The audience folks I spoke to agreed. That last tacked on bit was fooling no one. It was like a pathetic commercial for the sequel, it wasn't THE CRAZIES.
The movie that Director Brett Eisner made is what we loved. You gotta see this!4 Shriek Girls.
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