The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Crazies

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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The Crazies

Something horrible is happening to the tiny township of Ogden Marsh, Iowa. People are losing their minds, becoming catatonic at first, then homicidal. The first incident occurs when a high school baseball game is interrupted by long-time town resident (and former town drunk) walking grimly across the outfield carrying a shotgun.

Sheriff David Dutten (Timothy Olyphant) confronts the man and is forced to shoot the invader dead when he tries to squeeze out a shot into the lawman’s chest. Events begin to unravel further when a local farmer senselessly murders his family the same night.

Dutten and his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) the town doctor, along with Deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) and teen Becca Darling (Danielle Panabaker) find themselves swept up in a military takeover of Ogden Marsh consisting of a population roundup utilizing a systematic extermination protocol reminiscent of Nazi Germany in its heyday.

As if that scenario weren’t frightening enough, members of the population continue to mentally disintegrate to the point where they become single-minded mass murderers.
The secret to all of this can be found submerged in a nearby lake that supplies the town’s drinking water supply.

The quartet is captured and separated, but escapes back to the sheriff’s house for clothes and supplies in a dangerous attempt to reach Cedar Rapids. Along the way they are pursued by official looking helicopters and black SUVs that mean to destroy them.

There are some genuinely chilling moments during the first half of this film, when the audience is left to uncover the source of all the madness along with the main characters. Unfortunately, the promising premise starts to disintegrate as rapidly as the minds of the affected residents of the doomed town.

It’s hard not to think of the affected as zombies, although official military jargon pegs them as “the crazies.” They can be killed by well-placed bullets to the head. They start out moving with painstaking, purposeful slowness, which can turn into an amazing (and convenient) swiftness when the plot needs some fast action.

All of the horror/action clichés pop up during the second, disappointing half of the film. You know what I mean; the member of the good-guy team that starts to act strangely, the encounter with a military grunt/official who provides sobering information; and the seemingly endless circumstances where someone is grabbed by a loved one from behind (instead of a bloodthirsty “crazy” or testosterone-filled, gas-mask wearing soldier). This last false-scare is effective maybe the first time you see it – in your lifetime. After that it becomes an irritating source of cinematic manipulation.

Bullets issue forth from every type of gun, inferno-like fires sweep the far-flung buildings off of the plains, and continual cat-and mouse chases reach deadly conclusions, instigated by both “official” and rogue populations.

The good sheriff and doctor just want to be left alone, and in the process of leaving the region manage to make a series of questionable judgment calls, augmented by stupid decisions that illustrate that even they don’t understand the stereotypical events they’re enmeshed in. They say ignorance is bliss, but here it’s simply ignorant, used as a tired formula to justify the organized, mindless and vigilante violence that erupts like machine-gun fire.

To the audience all this becomes more, not less, tedious, with the result being a lot of watch checking in the hope of arriving at the end of the hyperactive road our protagonists are on. By film’s end, you won’t particularly care if they make it or not.

Timothy Olyphant is effective at looking serious and concerned when required. After all, he’s used to playing a sheriff (Deadwood). Radha Mitchell’s character could have been played by any number of actresses, as well as Danielle Panabaker’s Becca. Joe Anderson adds some interest as the small town deputy with an itchy trigger finger.

Based loosely on the 1973 George Romero original, director Breck Eisner (Sahara) builds a chilling, suspenseful story during the first hour, but relies on formulaic plot devices which unravel the events into stale mediocrity during the second. Not being able to predict a scare is good; being able to map out the fright landscape makes for a lame house of horror, one that you’d just like to escape from with IQ intact.

Until then we can hope for the day when filmmakers realize that risk-taking is always preferable to rehash.

Now that would really be crazy.