Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about the George A. Romero film The Crazies? Well, we finally tracked down the remake from this year, and gave it a good gander. The remake was directed by Breck Eisner, who directed a little piece of something called Sahara a few years ago. Go ahead and scope out his IMDB page; it's right here. He has like four movies in development; three of them are remakes (of Cronenberg's The Brood, Mike Hodges's Flash Gordon, and John Carpenter's Escape From New York). He didn't do an incredibly terrible job remaking Romero's insane original; still, I'm not sure how I feel about a guy making a career out of making remakes of semi-cult classics.
One thing I like better about the remake of The Crazies is the male lead is a lot less unibrow-y; Timothy Olyphant does a pretty good job, as per usual. Let me rewind a moment; let's list a few major differences between the two films. In Romero's version, the film starts much more rapidly. The main character, David, is a firefighter who served in 'Nam. His friend Clank is also a firefighter, who was in 'Nam, Special Forces. David's girlfriend Judy is a nurse, and is pregnant. The military features a much more immediate and overbearing presence in the original film. It also features a much more ambiguous, much less optimistic, and somehow much less open ending than the remake.
In Eisner's version, David (Olyphant) and Judy (Radha Mitchell) are married; David is the Sheriff of the town (in Iowa, rather than Pennsylvania), and Judy is a small-town doctor. Clank is now Russell Clank (Joe Anderson), and is David's deputy. The action starts much more slowly; maybe because it's a modern film, or maybe the style is different, but the remake takes much longer to get underway. A certain amount of time is setting up how idyllic, small, and quaint the town is. In the original, the opening scene features one of the Crazies burning his own house down with his children and (dead/murdered) wife inside. The military shows up almost immediately after that. In the remake, the occasional Crazy shows up; first, at a local baseball game, where David must shoot the man. Then, one of Judy's patients seems to be afflicted. Eventually, David finds the downed plane that Trixie escapes from (something nobody ever does in the original), and eventually determines that the water supply is poisoned (something nobody connects in the original, either). The first few people going crazy were the first houses in the water supply line (a huge leap of reasoning, actually).
Overall, the plot is fairly similar. Plane crashes into the river, the toxin Trixie seeps into the small town's water supply, and the military blockades them in, killing those infected, capturing others, experimenting on them; our heroes get captured (in this version, Judy is captured because her pregnancy elevated her temperature, an early sign of infection), so David and Russell have to rescue her. They eventually escape to the outskirts of town, running across a few more survivors, and seeing more military brutality firsthand. The ending is quite a bit different, as well; it's ultimately a lot more explosion-y, and a lot more open ended. A large chunk of characters featured in the original don't make it to the remake (like the military scientist researching a cure in the town, the man and his daughter that join the group, get infected, have sex [ew], and then get killed), and actual military characters (the military is largely faceless in the remake, and featured surprisingly little).
Overall, I'd say this movie is about as good as a modern version of this story can be. One of these days, I'll have to study the differences between these old horror movies from the 70s and 80s, and their modern remakes. There are a lot of social, cultural, political, and even technological differences between now and then that account for the changes. There's a lot of action, a lot of gore, a lot of creepiness, and a different brand of military representation in this year's The Crazies. It's a decent flick, and you should check it out; I almost wish I had seen the modern version first. It's kind of like watching the movie version before you read the book; oh well.
I give The Crazies three arbitrary nuclear explosions as the heroes drive frantically away in a truck out of five, or three deadly-crazy toxic viruses still inexplicably nicknamed Trixie, stored inside a giant plane that then crashes into a river water-source out of five.