Radha Mitchell, in 'The Crazies'

Dir. Breck Eisner
(2010, R, 101 min)
★ ★

There’s nothing wrong with The Crazies, per se. It’s competently filmed, well acted, has some good scenes and not really any bad ones. But for a horror film I found it slack. For instance, there’s a scene where one of the title fiends drags a pitchfork through a makeshift medical ward and goes about the nasty business of impaling the patients, who are strapped to their beds. I won’t give it away, but not giving it away feels like an unnecessary precaution. It gives itself away. You can tick away its beats like a metronome; I pointed my fingers at the screen like a gun and pulled my trigger at almost the exact moment a climactic gunshot goes off. We’re not afraid. We’re waiting for the scene to catch up.

In much the same way, the rest of the film feels familiar, safe. We know the landscape, the setups, the story beats, so it’s less like a horror film than like settling into an old, comfortable easy chair. We’re relaxed when we should feel tension. The film’s tone is sober — lacking the whimsy of pulp specialists like Raimi or Rodriguez — and its setups are the usual fight/flight/hide variety without much macabre innovation, so what we’re left with is 101 minutes of reasonably good scenes, without suspense.

Remade from a 1973 George A. Romero film of the same name, it stars Timothy Olyphant as a small-town sheriff who notices the townsfolk are acting mighty strange: to wit, bringing shotguns to baseball games and burning down houses. Soon, he and all of his neighbors are rounded up by a swift military strike force; you see, the strange behavior is related to the crash of a plane that may have been carrying a biological weapon.

The infected behave like zombies, but some of them exhibit intelligence and talk. One of them ties up her victim for reasons that are unclear, and one takes so long to transform that he practically laps the incubation period. The symptoms aren’t exactly consistent, but the film isn’t really about contagious disease, is it? And though the story involves government intervention, if you think it’s some kind of political commentary, then you’re … well, you know.