Arguments have raged among the geekerati for years now over what’s better: slow zombies or fast zombies. But what if the zombies are neither shuffling ghouls nor Olympic sprinters, rather what if they maintain their human capabilities, including managing to hang on to some of their mental faculties, and just become nine shades of evil?
That’s the premise of “The Crazies,” a taut, suspenseful joyride through the zombie nation that’s based on the 1973 film of the same name by the master of the slo-mo undead, George A. Romero (“Night of the Living Dead”).
Technically speaking, “the crazies” aren’t zombies as they never really died. It just so happens that they were the unfortunate souls in a rural Iowa town who drank the contaminated water resulting from the crash of a secret government plane carrying unidentified cargo in a nearby river.
One by one, the townsfolk start losing it, turning on each other like hungry wolves in a meat locker. It’s up to Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant), his doctor wife (Radha Mitchell), and his trusty deputy Russell Clark (Joe Anderson) to try to figure out what’s going on before they too succumb to the illness. Not helping matters are government agents who want to isolate the town before word gets out about what’s happening there.
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Tapping into paranoia about one’s neighbors and remote bureaucracy, director Breck Eisner (son of former Disney head Michael Eisner) and screenwriters Scott Kosar and Ray Wright have fashioned an apocalyptic horror-thriller that succeeds thanks to characters worth rooting for and crackerjack pacing as opposed to relying on over-the-top special effects. (The scene in the car wash might make you decide to start washing your car by hand.)
“The Crazies” is a B-movie in the best sense of the word, proving big names and a bigger budget aren’t necessary for creativity. Not only that but it adds a new element in the zombie wars: fast, slow, or just fast enough to catch you?