What can director Breck Eisner bring to the table in his remake of horror-meister George A. Romero's film The Crazies? As Hollywood's keenly running out of ideas, the plundering of comic book characters and updating movies from the past continue to drive up that sense of desperation, and Eisner doesn't contribute much other than to cosmetically update this for the modern times, the original done more than 30 years ago when he's still a toddler.
The person who edited the trailer though, had done a great marketing job in setting expectations that this is something of a huge action fest with the promise of jump-scenes designed to scare, and the marketing folks who came up with the tagline "Fear Thy Neighbor" could be watching a different film altogether. Instead, and thankfully, The Crazies 2010 is more of a brooding piece that relies a lot on a measured pace to create a sense of creepiness, rather than to seek an all out scare reliant on a cliched bag of tricks. Sadly though for the neighbour bit, we don't get much of a body count or have that literally translated, since it's more of a tale of survival instincts amongst a group desperately trying to make sense of the situation, and get themselves out of it in one piece.
We don't get to see or attach ourselves to more than a handful of folks, since the small town of inhabitants, supposedly close knit, stay far apart from one another except when they go downtown. Like almost all contemporary zombie films, the root cause is due to man's folly and carelessness, dabbling in unethical medical and laboratory tests designed to play around with Mother Nature, until an accidental strikes. Here, it's the unfortunate biological/chemical agent outbreak that causes a change in human behaviour, with the military swiftly called in to contain the situation with a town wide quarantine and the permission to use all means necessary to do so.
Which translates to indiscriminate killing, and questioning of ethics especially when methods cut too close to genocide. It gives that stark commentary on how those in power tend to carpet sweep all their mistakes because they can, and will not rule out the use of violence to exterminate any opposition and threat that will expose them. It reminds us of the jitters of man when we come face to face with uncertainty and fear, done especially well when the story starts to focus on the survival bits between town sheriff David (Timothy Olyphant), his doctor wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) and their respective deputies in Russell (Joe Anderson, in a superb support role like his character) and Becca (Danielle Panabaker) respectively.
Don't go in thinking that the Crazies here are superfast like zombies and go running around with great speed. The threat of the Crazies is their unpredictable, violent behaviour without reason, surprisingly still possessing that bit of intellect and mental ability, blessed with tremendous strength though still susceptible to normal weaponry, which makes them easier to dispatch. Kill scenes aren't designed deliberately to be gory, though the one at the morgue and in David's house still have it in them to be nail biting, with scenes like that in the car wash being at the cheesier end of things.
Eisner opted for being more peekaboo here than to drench the screen with all out gore. Like films of old this one takes its time to allow the dust to settle for the audience to ponder, but alas despite its very showy special effects laden finale, it's actually nothing more than a competent cosmetic remake, where the real horror is actually the death of original ideas.