Monday, 8 March 2010

There's Something In The Water...

It was a crazy old weekend for me, cinematically. On Friday, we all saw Jeff Bridge's Oscar-winning turn in Crazy Heart, but Cineworld played host to a different kind of crazy for me on Thursday. I've been sorely disappointed by horror remakes recently, the notable exception being Zack Snyder's 2004 Dawn of The Dead which I think ranks among one of the best. Mr Romero's legacy, and the old classic 70s horrors have taken quite a battering in recent years. Land of The Dead turning out to be a stinking turd of a letdown (apart from a shining turn from the lovely, lovely, lovely Asia Argento). Rob Zombie's Halloween was promising until it finished with all the Michael Myers backstory, and turned into a conventional 'remake' rather than a 'reimagining'. The absolute worst of this godawful bunch is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I haven't seen since I watched it in the pictures. Needless to say, I'm a more than a little apprehensive about A Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddie Krueger played by Rorshach? Interesting.... Produced by Michael Bay?...... Good. God. No.

Anyway, Thursday brought with it a surprisingly enjoyable romp through biohazard-infected small-town Americana in The Crazies, a remake of the 1973 film of the same name. I haven't seen the original, so I didn't know what to expect, but 'zombie remake' didn't exactly inspire confidence. Still, I figured I'd go and check my brain in for an hour or so. I'd also been let down after high expectations of The Wolfman and Daybreakers, so there was alot riding on this one. Perhaps unfairly, but in the end it was totally worth it.

The Crazies opens with Johnny Cash's familiar baritones, humming 'We'll Meet Again' over shots of a small town in the first clutches of spring. It's opening day of the baseball season and the whole town has turned out to watch the local high school batter up. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) is young, handsome, respected and expecting his first child with town doctor Judy (Radha Mitchell). This is the kind of town where you can leave your door unlocked, and are surrounded by acres and miles of glorious farmland. The sort of town that's ripe for some sort of undead pandemic, then.

The game's barely begun before the town's former 'drunk' wanders onto the baseball field brandishing a gun, not speaking, not showing any emotion whatsoever. No signs that he is in fact human. The sheriff shoots him down after he's unresponsive to negotiations. His family are adamant he's been sober for two years and are baffled by his behaviour, and the mystery deepens when a family man in a similar catatonic state burns down his family home after locking his wife and son inside. The sheriff and his deputy investigate a tip-off and find a fallen plane in the local river- the source of the town's water supply. Later, the whole town are dragged from their homes into military quarantine, faceless soldiers dragging off those with 'high temperature'; unfortunately for the Duttons this means Judy. Chaos ensues as David and his allies try to find her, so that they can make it to safety outside of the town's boundaries.

It's pretty standard horror fare, but the difference here is that the gore and shlock value is underpinned by a good ol' dose of black humour. The characters aren't just faceless teens in minimal clothing, they're stand-up members of the local community, on a race against time when basically they're walking targets. Sure, there's far too many instances of people walking into rooms without realising the 'infected' are behind them, but it becomes less of a shock tactic and more of a means to keep the journey moving. I won't give too much away and spoil the ending, but it's a thrilling race against time to get there.

Sure, it's not gonna win any Oscars. Then again, horror movies rarely register with the 'Academy', so that's probably not the best comparison... Still, I went to see this film to enjoy it, not think about any deeper meanings behind it or to be intellectually challenged. It's alot of fun, with a good few scares and a clutch of impressive special effects along the way. It doesn't add anything fresh or stunningly original to the 'infection-horror' genre, and the characters are a little thin. There are some clunking references to American politics and the brute force of the military too, but they get kind of swept aside in all the pandemic fun. The Crazies is refreshing in that it doesn't offer any obvious resolution, and it's certainly one of the better remakes I've seen. It's economic with its running time and doesn't waste a minute of it, guaranteeing you to be entertained from start to finish. Problem is, now I want a sequel....and can see myself spending an absolute fortune in bottled water.

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