Friday, March 5, 2010

The Crazies and Triangle

I totally forgot that I had Quality Checked The Crazies the other night so thanks to Noel for reminding me specifically so I can tell y'all to not bother.

Some filmmakers are in the business because of George Lucas. I'm in it because of that other George, George A. Romero. The Crazies is a remake of one of his films - which is not one of my favourites of his work - about a military experiment that is accidentally unleashed upon a small town and causes the populace to go homicidally insane. The original was made in 1973, five years after Night of the Living Dead and five years before Dawn of the Dead. Romero executive produced this, which is really just a fancy way of saying that he wanted to collect the dough from a remake, but wasn't involved in the making of the film - he was in Toronto shooting Survival of the Dead.

Romero's been ripped off for years so I wonder if it gave him a little ironic glee to see just how much this remake ripped off the remake of Dawn of the Dead with the use of Johnny Cash over the opening credits and a lounge song at the end, plus the cut away during the end credits to more footage of the biological agent (codenamed Trixie, just like in the original) spreading into the larger cities. It's just too bad that whoever made the decision to rip off Dawn of the Dead didn't actually seem to understand what made those choices work in that remake.

With the special effects make-up design and far-out stares of the actors, and GAR's name attached of course, you'd be tempted to think it was a zombie flick. It's not. In spirit, it's closer to 28 Days Later (which is essentially a rip off of the original Crazies), but not as intense or as well-written (don't forget, those weren't zombies, they were infected with Rage!) This film starts out well enough as they set up the characters and their motivations, but the writers (Scott Kosar - who wrote the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Amityville Horror remakes and Ray Write - who wrote the Pulse remake) didn't make me care about them, their struggle, or their fate. This is a common enough problem in horror films, but it seems to be even more endemic to remakes, which makes up the majority of theatrical horror releases right now.

The rest of the film was just okay with surprisingly good, if not forced and at times somewhat unnatural, performances from the actors, lead by Timothy Olyphant (Scream 2) and Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill). The score was fine, the editing was fine, the cinematography was fine. Everything else was just fine, but if you don't have a strong, or even good, script, you're dead in the water and in that way, The Crazies is DOA.


I, like most people, have an innate distrust for direct-to-DVD releases, especially in the horror genre, but as Hollywood insists upon spoonfeeding us remakes and cookie-cutter garbage, I find myself considering the direct-to-DVD offerings a little more. This has lead to a lot of crap of course (a lot of crap), but it's also lead to some very interesting, original, and sometimes even freakin' great films like Triangle.

No, it's not about the Bermuda Triangle, but to say much more about the plot may unwind the whole thing for you and I really think you should go to your local video store or Netflix (they have it on their Instant Queue, which is how I watched it) and give it a chance. It's predictable if you're familiar with this particular sub-genre of psychological thriller, but it's engaging, involving, and puzzling in all the best ways. All of the questions I had while watching it were answered by the end and while the end does have a minor problem that threatens to destroy the whole story, it can also be easily reasoned away, especially if you have Pollyanna-like tendencies, as I do.

With a few well-cut scenes in during the opening credits, I found myself caring more about our lead character, Jes (played by Melissa George from 30 Days of Night), than I did about the entire cast of The Crazies (that's just a little bit of perspective for ya). Something's just not right in Jes' world, however, and you know it right away.

Its predictability aside, this is a top notch flick with strong performances, an unobtrusive score, remarkable editing, and good cinematography. I wish I knew why this didn't have a wide theatrical release in America. It may be because the cast is pretty, but relatively unknown here, and the film (which is a UK-Australia co-production) didn't have the same kind of touting here that something like Paranormal Activity did, which is a shame since this was a solid little flick.

1 comment:

NoelCT said...

I hear what you're saying, but I think I might still check out THE CRAZIES, just because I love where the original was going (even if it didn't always successfully get there) and am curious to see an alternate take. I can usually get around weak characters as long as the broader concepts are still strong. Plus, the trailer used "Mad World", which I'm a total whore for.

And you're not the first to recommend TRIANGLE. Will definitely pick it up.