Saturday, February 27, 2010

Love: The Crazies

Writing "Love" and "The Crazies" above was a bit hard for me to do. It's not that it's a bad movie, as it is excellently performed and put together, but it's not over the top enough to be something you can detach yourself easily from. This is not a zombie movie, nor is it really a horror movie, much closer kin to an apocalypse film, but without the funky science or aliens; more The Road than Knowing. And that's not a bad thing.

Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) leads a quiet small town life with his pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell) who also happens to be the town's only doctor. Life changes unexpectedly, when he is forced to gun down a neighbor in the middle of a high school baseball game, setting off a chain of horrifying events. That's about all I can tell you, without giving anything away.

I can tell you that the acting is surprisingly spot on. I've always liked Olyphant and Mitchell, but both never seem to escape from B-movie, television purgatory and get the recognition they deserve. Here, along with Brit Joe Anderson, they elevate the film beyond the typical and the forgettable. While Olyphant is great at playing the strong lawman type that any gal would be lucky to marry (Deadwood anyone?), watching Mitchell cry out in fear or disgust never feels corny or over the top. It's all achingly real, and when shit goes down, its damn effective. You get sad, you get angry and scared, and root for the little guy, hoping that maybe they will get a happy ending despite all the madness.

The cinematography in the film is particularly noteworthy and adds to that realism. Few horror films make use of film as a medium without making it stylized. Crazies, does the exact opposite, playing up the serene beauty of small town rural Iowa to heighten the injustice of the violence. It's visceral photography at its best, the darkness of an empty barn or the spot under the stairs uncontrived and frightening. When the wind rolls across the fields at night, you feel it across your own skin. That little bit of Terrence Malick is enough to get me excited, and the gore, while present, isn't you're typical over the top gross-out, making it effective when it does occur.

But the film shows its cards too soon. It's not exactly predictable, but starts to develop an annoying habit of breaking up the drama to show a faux google map, a poorly done caption that (especially at the end) feels like Director Breck Eisner suddenly remembered he was supposed to be making a B-movie remake of Romero and makes things disjointed.

While the majority of the film has its ideas in the right place, and the acting and cinematography rise above, Crazies just can't decide if it wants to be a B-movie or something brighter and better. While it usually straddles this line with ease, the few times it slips prevent it from digging its way out and into more memorable territory.

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