Review in a Hurry: This remake of George A. Romero's 1973 not-quite-a-zombie flick is more effective as a thrill ride than as a truly scary experience. Plus, seeing Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell have so much fun is a huge win.
The Bigger Picture: Small-town sheriff David Dutton (Olyphant) is enjoying a high school baseball game when the local drunk shows up in the outfield with a shotgun. A confrontation takes place but remarkably the town drunk wasn't drunk at all.
Things go from bad to crazy as other seemingly random residents of Ogden Marsh, Iowa first go catatonic but then proceed to act like the walking dead. Mrs. Dutton (Mitchell), the town's doctor, has some strange consults with her patients.
Meanwhile someone is keeping an eye on the whole town with satellite imagery.
Changing the setting from Philadelphia—in the original—to Iowa doesn't change the material in the slightest. What does change is the new version's way of keeping a tight film from going off the rails.
The Crazies is that rare genre film that benefits from an overstuffed plot: There are the zombies to flee from, the mystery of the virus at the root of it all, the sudden arrival of a shadowy military operation and the half-dozen characters to keep track of. Director Breck Eisner (Sahara) knows that many of these elements might be too familiar to audiences, but mixing it all together like some anti-viral cocktail keeps the energy level manic and infectious.
Olyphant has charm to spare, and even when his delivery is deadly serious he's...kinda funny. Mitchell (Silent Hill) has been so good in many bad B movies; here's hoping this better B movie gets her the recognition she deserves.
The action scenes are, of course, ridiculous, but Eisner has such a knack for staging numerous attacks of the lurching infected that you'll never be bored. It's a zombie flick, after all, and them brains are for eating—not thinking.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Nearly all the suspenseful moments end with characters just barely escaping, in ways that feel like cheats. At least three times, somebody is about to die when—suddenly, from offscreen!—another character kills the infected. Thank goodness that guy was near a window so someone can shoot 'em! Awfully lucky my partner unplugged that bone saw right before it got me!
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