Night of the living lunatics
ONE’S FURY at Hollywood’s apparent determination to remake every classic horror flick of the 1970s is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that the hacks often do a surprisingly decent job of it. Both the retooled Dawn of the Dead and The Hills Have Eyes were perfectly serviceable.Now we are offered a remake of one of George Romero’s lesser-known – but most fascinating – satirical shockers and, yet again, the results are divertingly palatable.
The Crazies begins rather splendidly with various citizens of a remote town going murderously insane. One old geezer wanders onto the baseball diamond with a shotgun and is reluctantly gunned down by Timothy Olyphant’s worried sheriff. Elsewhere, a farmer burns down his house and the family within.
It soon transpires that a plane carrying poisonous cargo has crashed in a nearby river, and the material is turning the citizens into maniacs. Later, government forces arrive and begin annihilating anything that moves. Sheriff Tim and his partner (Radha Mitchell), unsure whether they should be more frightened of the zombies or the soldiers, fling their goods in the boot and hit the road.
Sadly, after that fine start, the film loses pace when the heroes take off for the territories. The original Romero film, fuelled by anger at the Vietnam War and state responses to the resulting protests, stands as a genuinely radical exercise in cinematic fist-waving. Denied that focus, the new picture ends up confusing us as to what exactly we should be running from. Fights with Crazies and tense encounters with the authorities are shuffled in distractingly random fashion.
Still, The Crazies is a lot better than we might have feared. Is there any chance the upcoming version of A Nightmare on Elm Street will also pass muster? I wouldn’t bet on it.
Directed by Breck Eisner. Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson