As far as utterly pointless, unnecessary retreads go, The Crazies isn’t all that bad. The lead actors – Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell – are both far superior to their counterparts in the original 1973 film from George Romero. The camerawork is more slick and the editing less choppy. The special effects have been buffed and given a nice, glossy sheen.
The plot remains relatively simple: A military airplane has crashed outside the Iowa hamlet of Ogden Marsh, releasing a deadly virus into the water that turns people into murderous “crazies.” Aware of the disease and the threat it would pose to life as we know it if it were to spread, the military initiates a quarantine and separates the sick from the healthy.
Upset that his pregnant wife Judy (Mitchell) has been placed with the sick, Sheriff David Dutton (Olyphant) breaks the quarantine and heads back into town. Along with his deputy, Russell (Joe Anderson), the trio of survivors try to find a way out of town and back to civilization.
Though occasionally tense, The Crazies derives most of its scares by inspiring simple jumps: sharp spikes in music and rapid cutting are no substitute for mood and atmosphere. Where Shutter Island succeeded, The Crazies fails, which shouldn’t be too surprising given that director Breck Eisner is no Martin Scorsese.
More interesting than the feeble plot, however, is the fact that this picture was produced by Participant Media, the same company that made Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. As the New York Times reported earlier this week, Participant is hoping that audiences will pick up on some of the “progressive” themes of the film:
“Obviously, the documentaries we’ve made deal with some very serious issues,” said Participant’s president, Ricky Strauss, referring to this year’s Oscar-nominated “Food Inc.,” as well as the recent Sundance entries “Countdown to Zero,” about nuclear proliferation; “Waiting for Superman,” about American education; and the 3-D, quasi-comedic “Cane Toads: The Conquest,” about lumpy-green vermin invading Australia’s ecosystem. “But our movies also need to be entertaining, so as many people as possible are inspired by the issues and themes, and they can go out and make a difference.”
While I have a general rule against viewing films through the lens of partisan politics, I’ll make an exception forThe Crazies since they so dearly want to “make a difference.” So what do liberals really think? (Some spoilers are ahead, so if you’re dying to see The Crazies this weekend, you should probably stop reading now.)
Well, for starters, progressives want us to know that the military is comprised of genocidal maniacs. As the virus starts to spread, citizens are rounded up into trucks that are reminiscent of the cattle cars used to transport victims in the Holocaust; later, the people in those trucks are gunned down and torched with flamethrowers by the Army.
Way to support the troops, fellas. I’m sure they love being cast as the Einsatzgruppen reborn.
Then there’s the depiction of a trio of rednecks as maniacal hunters who turn their guns on the townspeople after the virus hits, loading their trophy carcasses into the bed of their beat up truck. Oh, sure, they’re “infected,” but I think we all know the real point progressives are making here: Rednecks are just itching for a chance to go nuts and start shooting up the place. More gun control, please!
And let’s not forget the deployment of a nuclear weapon on a United States city – that’s right: when containment fails, reach for the nukes -- which I guess has something to do with the progressive desire for unilateral disarmament? Can’t vaporize Ogden Marsh if you don’t have a nuclear stockpile, now can you?
I could go on, but hopefully you get my point. One can’t help but wonder if this is the face that progressives really want to put forward.
Sonny Bunch writes about politics and culture at Conventional Folly.