Zombies are Scarier than the Government (Review of the Crazies [2010])

I don’t exactly hide the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of remakes.  It’s mostly a personal thing.  I say “mostly” because it does disappoint me that, especially in the realm of horror films, filmmakers today (or the studios feeding them money) seem unable or unwilling to try to come up with original and exciting directions to take the genre.  Considering that horror is SO incredibly grounded in the sociocultural fears of not only a certain culture but a certain time, it often upsets me that people are choosing to remake films that have much less relevance today than to find current social scare points and exploit those to the fullest.  But, on the personal side of things, it’s rare I like a remake better.  They’re usually not as good and I find myself just wanting to watch the original…so there 😛

I'm unsure whether I appreciate it or hate it when remakes copy EXACT SCENES

The Crazies, however, was a pleasant surprise to me.  I must admit, I had a little more hope for this remake than most.  Something about Romero‘s over-the-top-ness can translate well into a remake (a la Dawn of the Dead, which, while in no way superior to the original, is very satisfying), as long as the new director doesn’t completely lose the spirit of Romero’s original.  Also, there is something to be said for improvements in special effects and make-up – it can do a lot for horror if it isn’t super overdone and ridiculous (or…in the case of people like Sam Raimi, BECAUSE it’s super overdone and ridiculous).

The scene where pitchforks went from stereotypically demonic to scary as hell

Given that, The Crazies was pretty satisfying.  I felt like it made up for some of what was lacking in the original.  Mainly the scare factor.  Not saying that the original wasn’t scary – it was, in that cerebral, creep the hell out of me, “the government will destroy us all out of sheer stupidity” sort of way.  But in terms of actual jump moments or simple scares, it was somewhat lacking.  The new version, however, has some really great moments, and some surprising ones at that.  Ok, I have to admit, seeing a guy dragging a pitchfork through a room and randomly stabbing people did not seem like it’d be that creepy to me (watch the trailer, if you want an idea what I’m on about).  However, the way the scene was shot and executed sent some major chills down my spine.   Ditto for a scene in a car wash.  I mean, it’s a freaking car wash.  But, now I’m unsure if I’ll ever feel quite comfortable driving through a car wash again (which sucks, because I actually find those things REALLY entertaining).  The film was just very good at making sort of over the top, ridiculous death scenes still rather frightening, which is admittedly hard to do.  So kudos on that.

Pajamas: the new hip look for the zombie/evil virus apocalypse.

Here’s where I get to the parts where I’m torn about the film or just downright upset.  On the one hand, it was sort of nice to have some of the ridiculous governmental mumbo jumbo cut out of the film and spend a bit more time with our protagonists getting scared in car washes and such.  On the other hand, the film went *too* far in the other direction.  The government was almost a non-entity, a plot point.  I mean, yes, it was there.  There were military guys and they shot people.  But they weren’t really all that scary.  Compared to how deeply unnerving the government is in the original, they were pussycats.  Sort of random mindless drones – we even got a nice neat scene where we talked to said drone and he assured us that he was, indeed, just a drone following orders.  The fact that the disease was caused by the government was touched on for all of about 3 minutes and then dropped immediately.  I’m not saying that Romero’s over-talking is necessarily the way to do it but…it’s supposed to be a movie about how fucked up the government is by accidentally poisoning Americans and then killing them.  By the end, when the supposed big, OMG ending happened by nuking the town, I almost didn’t care.  Like, yes, it’s a scary concept to have the government drop a nuke on an American town but…I was so not focused on that element of the film by that point that I was sort of like “wow, that sucks…so is there a zombiecrazy hiding in the back of the car or anything?”  Which isn’t right.  I would have liked that ending IF we’d actually had a reason to be scared of the government by that point.  It’s supposed to be a conspiracy theorist horror not a zombie film.

Oh wait, let me reiterate this:

YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A ZOMBIE

Ok, I get it.  I really do.  Zombies are kind of hot right now – not as hot as vampires, but that might have to do with the whole looking disgusting and eating brains thing.  And we have all these fancy new fangled make-up techniques which is all shiny and exciting.  But there should be no zombies in this film, only people getting sick.  The man you see above you is not sick…he’s getting zombified as hell.  I mean, at least the story didn’t change to the point where if the crazies were ACTUALLY zombies, and if they were shot anywhere but their head they popped back up and started charging.  But still…tone it down a bit.  They’re sick, not dead.  I don’t even know what kind of virus would suddenly consume half your ear and make your eyes turn yellow.  And the veins are just a bit much.  I don’t have a picture of it (sorry!) but when good ol’ deputy Russell started getting crazy, his uber pale skin and sunken eyes were much more representative of what the crazies *should* have looked like.

I want BRAINS...oh wait, I mean, MEDICINE!

On a similar note,  why did all the crazies in this new film have to be homicidal?  If you’ll remember, I sort of wished Romero had put a larger variety of crazy into his film.  Well, in this one, the only variety was one shot of a woman creepily riding her bike through the deserted city (which was in the previews) and someone laughing.  The end.  While, yes, it makes it scarier to be running away from mindless murderers, we’re getting closer to zombies again.  It’s much more unsettling and innovative to have a multitude of types of crazy.  Otherwise, I’m starting to fail to see the difference between “virus” and “undead”.

I am bashing a bit, but I’m not meaning to say I didn’t like the film.  I really did.  And I would very much recommend it.  It was fun.  It kept my interest, made me jump a few times, and had some very innovative ideas and moments.  Again, I kind of wish I could blend some of the scarier elements and focus on the sheer fear of the protagonists into Romero’s film (it could replace those scenes with the ridiculous stock footage).  But, I just missed some of the cerebral content that Romero’s film have.  This felt almost too generic – good, but like a good generic zombie film as opposed to an interesting horror commentary on government.  So, definitely, go see it.  But, if you can only see one version (or only want to), see Romero’s 1973 – overall, more satisfying, in my opinion.

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One Response to “Zombies are Scarier than the Government (Review of the Crazies [2010])”

  1. carpeviam Says:

    Did you see Splice? I heard it was scaaaaaryyyyyyy!!!!

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