Combustible Celluloid
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With: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, Preston Bailey, John Aylward, Joe Reegan, Glenn Morshower, Larry Cedar, Gregory Sporleder, Mike Hickman, Lisa K. Wyatt, Justin Welborn
Written by: Scott Kosar, Ray Wright, based on a screenplay by George A. Romero
Directed by: Breck Eisner
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence and language
Running Time: 101
Date: 02/23/2010

The Crazies (2010)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Crazed and Bruised

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In a sleepy small town in Iowa, a blank-faced man walks into the middle of a baseball game carrying a gun, and the local sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) is forced to shoot him. The sheriff's wife, the town doctor (Radha Mitchell) sees patients with similar behavior. It turns out that an experimental military virus has been set loose in the town, turning everyone into mindless, homicidal maniacs. Soon the military shows up, trying to contain the problem, but they cause as much violence and destruction -- if not more so -- than the "crazies." The sheriff, his wife, the deputy and a teenage girl decide to flee across the county lines to safety, all the while fending off attacks from both sides, and risking contracting the virus themselves.

A remake of George A. Romero's 1973 Vietnam-era exploitation movie (see my original review), The Crazies retains all the social commentary of the original, but streamlines it and smoothes it into a regular horror film. It cuts down on the many talking and bickering sequences in the original, and turns the military men into faceless, voiceless spooks who are more or less the equivalent of the "crazies." In a way, the new film is perhaps even more direct in getting Romero's message across. And though it relies a bit too much on standard genre conventions like jump-scares, last-second rescues and characters splitting up to search for things, it makes up for it with a high standard of acting, mainly by Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell as the married sheriff and doctor. Their realistic reactions to the horror around them are far more effective than any amount of shock imagery or bloody gore.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has released a very good Blu-Ray that includes a commentary track by director Breck Eisner. There are tons of behind-the-scenes featurettes, notably a good one on George A. Romero, who -- of course -- wrote and directed the original and "executive produced" this one. We also get storyboards, a "motion comic," and a digital copy.

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