The Crazies is safe. It doesn’t want to anger anyone with social or political commentary, the very reason for the original’s existence. It has no grit, no guts, and no brains… except for those splattered by gunfire. This 2010 edition of George Romero’s mild horror piece feels sanitized and boring, desperately searching for a point amidst the aggressive, gruesome gore. It never finds one.
Then again, The Crazies never really tries either. The government sends in military support to a small US town infected with a virus codenamed Trixie. There are some scenes where people are confined against their will, and slowly the full scope of the events are revealed, yet you never meet the people making these decisions. You never learn of the possibilities of the virus, the research, or the ethics of those involved.
Crazies just moves right into the gore, opening on a burning town and then instantaneously transporting the audience back a few days to a baseball game. A crazed citizen, drunk by all accounts of Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant), runs onto the field with a shotgun. When he raises the firearm, Dutton guns him down, setting off a series of events so predictable, you can almost guess the timestamps.
Instead of becoming an anti-government piece, Crazies becomes a zombie movie, all be it with slightly more intelligent undead… who are still alive… ahh, forget it. They kill people and look dead. They’re zombies. Besides kill, they never do anything crazy besides a brief shot of people punching dumpsters. The ’73 version made some using a broom into a nutcase.
Anyway, the few scenes of real tension are ruined by predictability. Dutton’s wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) is taken by the government and is strapped to a stretcher. One of the insane citizens approaches her with a pitchfork, ready to stab her. Cue the last second save from the husband much to the relief of the audience knowing the movie can move on finally.
Director Breck Eisner (Sahara) does some mildly interesting things with the camera. As everything begins calmly, so is the camerawork. Once the zaniness picks up, the camera becomes handheld and less controlled, adding slightly to the frenzy. With the familiarity of the content in front of the lens however, none of that matters.
Anchor Bay releases the film with an VC-1 encode, slightly digital and processed for sure. Establishing shots of the farmland are the first to become suspicious, showcasing some ringing over the roofs of barns at 1:04. Once into the film itself, which rarely looks like film, faces appear digital and waxy. Look at Olyphant at 8:49 or Ben at 10:04. Not only is fine detail absent, they are smooth, soft, and unnatural. The same goes for many of the environments, such as the trees at 17:24. The bark is processed and muddy, trees/branches in the distance poorly defined.
These problems continue through much of the film, ringing creeping in sporadically like at 53:36 again on the roof. Faces rarely showcase any fine detail, real disappointments such as 59:49 as Mitchell and Olyphant sit in frame. There are moments, rare as they may be, where some high fidelity texture shows through. You can make some out at 1:08:34, more or less due to the intensity of the light. Things return right back to normal at 1:11:55, where the grass on the sides of the frame seems to be one solid blob of digital green.
Color timing is cool and a bit desaturated, but still natural. Black levels are the next inconsistency, failing in darker situations, generating a murky, unsatisfying picture. Image depth suffers as a result, although in brighter light, the blacks remain stable. A shot late of a store (followed by a restaurant) at 1:17:06 is superb, plus it fully renders all objects within the environment cleanly. Why the rest of the film does not carry this same level of definition is a mystery.
Grain is generally well resolved or completely absent. You can catch some noise at 25:48, the only breakdown of note. If there is anything to say for this transfer, it’s that it renders fire beautifully, with powerful whites and vivid oranges. Whether the film is burning houses or people, the flames generate a vibrancy unavailable elsewhere.
There are two issues with this mix. The first is balance, the abnormally loud action likely intentional to increase the effectiveness of the scares, although given the predictability it doesn’t really work. The second is that dialogue reproduction can suffer, and not because of the volume. Random lines suddenly come through fuzzy, distorted, or scratchy. You’ll notice it at 19:59, and 21:49 when Olyphant visits the Mayor (and no, this is not because of the actor’s gruff voice).
The rest of this mix is exceptional, phenomenal even. When one of the Crazies’ wives heads into the barn to check on her husband, a plowing machine has been activated, the engine generating tremendous force in the subwoofer. Clarity is awesome, and the extension into the low-end as aggressive as possible.
Gunfire always generates a bit of punch, thoroughly satisfying around 44:32. Explosions likewise provide a jolt, including 1:05:29 (a boom that comes out of nowhere) and the finale which rips through the subwoofer and the soundfield in general. A car crash at 1:07:42 is great, the vehicle flipping and spinning through each channel with a frenzied grace.
Ambiance is excellent as well, delivering various insect calls in multiple channels with distinct placement, or bird chirps in other areas. It adds an excellent layer of immersion.
A solo commentary from director Breck Eisner begins the extras, moving into a traditional plot-recap making-of that runs 10:35. Paranormal Pandemics looks at the make-up designs, and how they tried to not make them look like zombies. Oops. The Romero Template is notable for not just looking back on the horror director’s career, but for the HD footage of Night of the Living Dead which is looking great.
Make-up Mastermind is a detailed look at the work of Rob Hall, the best piece on the disc. Visual Effects in Motion looks at the CG work at various levels, followed by two motion comics. Storyboards, trailers, and a photo gallery remain.