Judge Patrick Naugle is insane in the membrane.
Fear Thy Neighbor.
First off, I want to point you toward Judge Mancini's excellent full length DVD review of The Crazies 2010 remake.
While I will lavish praise upon George A. Romero's classic zombie film series (including the seminal Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, the underrated Day of the Dead and the highly enjoyable Land of the Dead), I won't be doling out accolades for his cult classic The Crazies. A sort of hybrid disaster/zombie/TV movie-of-the-week, the original 1973 film is thought of highly in horror movie circles but did not win any points with this reviewer. Amateurish and muddled with a constrained budget, I found the original film to be a far cry from Romero's successful "living dead" works.
So it was with great surprise that I relished the 2010 Crazies remake. Now here is the way to do a horror remake. While still retaining the original film's ideas (a small town infected with a virus that makes its residents go el loco), director Breck Eisner's The Crazies is a taut, lean horror machine that provides viewers with both interesting characters and, for that all important horror demographic the gore hounds, gallons of blood and grizzle to chew on.
The cast is led by Timothy Olyphant (Live Free or Die Hard) as the town sheriff trying to keep his community and family (including Radha Mitchell of Silent Hill fame as his pregnant wife) from succumbing to the deadly disease that originates from…oh, but my job as a reviewer is not to give away major plot details, even though you could guess it with half your brain in a jar. Everyone in the film (including Danielle Panabaker from 2009's Friday the 13th remake) is adequate and fulfills their roles as needed—be it screaming, going feverishly crazy or acting the stern authority figure. Eisner is able avoid banality and wring tension from the relatively tight screenplay, even if the film's structure has practically been beaten to death (pun intended) in dozens of similar themed movies.
The fact is that you won't find anything revolutionary in this version of The Crazies—the movie is your basic "small town becomes infested/government invades/ band of citizens must survive" story. What makes this remake a worthwhile viewing is the style injected by the cast and crew; scenes like my favorite involving a funeral home and one nasty bone saw tweak our expectations just enough to make you sit up and pay attention.
The Crazies works its way toward an inevitable conclusion that will come as a surprise only to those who have not seen a horror movie in the past 30 years. But sometimes the fulfillment is in the journey and not the destination. The Crazies is able to shoehorn in all the fun—if standard—horror scenes needed for a film of this nature. Although Crazies is the most basic of nuts and bolts horror, it's done with skill and verve, making for an above average night at the movies.
The Crazies is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p. This hi-def version of the film looks excellent. The film is often set at night or in dark areas of the town, so the color palate isn't expansive or vibrant (though the daytime scenes are very well produced). The black levels are deep and solid without any major artifacts in the image. This image doesn't have the 'pop' of some newer films due to its lower budget and themes, but that shouldn't stand in the way of passing over the DVD for this significantly better Blu-ray version. Overall what viewers will get is a very nice representation of the film and a very well done transfer by Anchor Bay.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround as well as PCM 5.1 Surround. Both tracks are very good and feature the requisite horror movie surround sounds (i.e., creaking doors in the background, 'stinger' sound effects when an attack happens, etc.). Dialogue is crisply heard and Mark Isham's music score (fine, but pretty standard horror music stuff) is evenly dispersed. Also included on the disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
In the extra features department Anchor Bay has offered up fans some meaty extra features including a group of featurettes. First up is a full length commentary track by director Breck Eisner that is informative if a bit dry for casual moviegoers. Moving forward there is "Behind the Scenes with Breck Eisner" that is basically a promotional spot featuring interviews with various cast and crew members. Then we have "Paranormal Pandemics" which also includes talking head interviews discussing the movie's theme of 'disease'. Next up is "The George A. Romero Template" which is a short 10 minute feature on Romero's career (mostly featuring people like Don Coscarelli of Phantasm fame lavishing Romero with praise). And "Make-Up Mastermind: Rob Hall in Action" gives viewers an insight into some of the special effects from the film (including many of the practical effects done at Hall's Almost Human studio).
Finally there is a short "Visual Effects in Motion" featurette that shows some of the digital effects work utilized in the film, two episodes from the film's motion comic (which fans can download online), a photo gallery, storyboards, the film's screenplay (via DVD-ROM), a teaser trailer, two theatrical trailers and a trailer for the motion comic.
The Crazies is so crazy, it just might work! And it does! Free to go infect the rest of the planet with itsterror-iffic lunacy!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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