A good remake involves taking an original film and recreating it as if it was originally produced today. From this perspective, The Crazies is one of the better remakes in recent memory.
Note: Spoilers for the remake and the original are in this review.
Most remakes nowadays butcher the source material…either they completely disregard the original film and share only a name, or they try too hard to emulate a movie released decades earlier. The Crazies does a good job of taking the original film and presenting an updated version of the same tale. Breck Eisner shifts the focus from the military to the survivors, while keeping the crazies to minimal screen time. George Romero’s original explored the military’s futile attempts to keep things under control while the townspeople put up a solid resistance…unlike the remake, in which the military pounds the town into oblivion and, with the exception of one incident towards the beginning of the film, keep an iron grip on the farming town. This difference makes sense, as the military from the early 70′s had neither the technology or the budget of today’s modern armed forces.
Unlike how it was presented in trailers, The Crazies isn’t action packed or scary. The crazies have screen time, but they only serve as a reason to focus on the survivors. It amazed me how resourceful and intelligent the four primary survivors were as people…yet how wasteful and stupid they were as survivors. Announcing their position by being loud, splitting up, not clearing the rooms or buildings they were entering…they made some fundamental mistakes that should not have been made, especially by a sheriff and his deputy. They acted admirably when it came time to fight, but half of the fights they had (both with the crazies and the military) should never have happened in the first place. For example: they set up a simple yet effective ambush on a lone soldier checking out a farmhouse, but when they came across a truck stop loaded with food and other supplies, they sat down right in front of the windows with the lights on. Another example: they stop a high-ranking government official’s vehicle, yet take absolutely nothing from his truck…including the official’s laptop, despite wanting to know what was going on. Come on, people…this isn’t quantum physics you’re dealing with here. Other standard realism issues were present, such as a character regularly using an injured hand, or being close enough to a massive (nuclear?) explosion for an 18-wheeler cab to be lifted off the ground…yet the occupants walked away with a few scrapes. There were smaller issues, but I doubt a viewer would be expecting much realism from a film called The Crazies.
Despite the formulaic second half, The Crazies is still a very enjoyable and well-made film. The cinematography felt fluid and natural, with very few “quick cut” style scenes. The action is very easy to follow, and is presented in a raw and minimal style. Near as I could tell, there was hardly any CGI (except for a rather horrendous scene at the very end with a truck), and makeup effects were convincingly real. Acting was very good throughout, and considering the genre, the script was well written and flowed naturally. There were some positively brutal scenes, such as the car wash scene and the scene in a medical examiner’s office.
Executive produced and partially written by George Romero, The Crazies does its source material justice. There are a number of scenes that are an homage to the original, and the whole experience is quite entertaining. The Crazies is a good film, but it’s a great remake. Recommended.