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New on DVD: The Crazies

The Crazies marks the return of survivalist horror to the big screen in the vein of zombie and outbreak films such as Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later.

Ogden Marsh is a small town with a law-abiding population of a little more than 1,200. Suddenly overnight, the residents of the once picture-perfect community dive into violent madness. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) tries to figure out what is infecting his town, while having to use lethal force to prevent his friends and neighbours from killing him. As the nonsensical hostility escalates, Dutton bands together with his pregnant wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell); Becca (Danielle Panabaker), an assistant at the medical center; and Russell (Joe Anderson), Dutton’s deputy and right-hand man to survive the insanity. To add to their difficulties, the government has restricted all communication and access to the town in an attempt to contain the infection.

The movie is a reinvention of George Romero’s 1973 film of the same name. However, this cannot be considered a remake by definition as the key difference between the films is the overall story: while Romero’s picture split the focus between the failure of the military to be effective in the situation and a small group’s attempt to evade capture, the 2010 version directed by Breck Eisner presents the military as a faceless power and centres on the group’s survival against various attacks. Even though the driving force of the film and a few key elements remain intact, the approach is changed. The modernized representation of the military as a uniform, anonymous power invading without explanation is compatible with current views and they follow the contemporary movie standard of government cover-ups.

If categorized, The Crazies would be characterized as a survivalist zombie flick – more similar now to Romero’s niche narratives than the original. It holds a few good jump-worthy moments as well as numerous close calls that raise the intensity of the film. It’s not a thrill ride by any means, but the film keeps a steady pace from beginning to end.

Except for Anderson, the main cast members are veterans of the horror genre having run and killed their way to the end of various movies, including Scream 2 and A Perfect Getaway (Olyphant); Silent Hill and Rogue (Mitchell); and Friday the 13th (Panabaker). They are more than adequate doing more of the same here as Mitchell exhibits automatous strength through most of the movie and Olyphant brings thoughtful courage to his character; though Dutton’s deduction abilities may be embellished to push the story forward, the rest of the events flow as you would expect.

Special features include: commentary with Eisner; a behind the scenes featurette with Eisner; “Paranormal Pandemics”; “The George A. Romero Template”; a make-up featurette with Rob Hall; a visual effects featurette; and storyboards.

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