What have we become?
Imagine your average American small town farming community. White picket fences, green fields, and red barns dot the landscape. Without warning, red blood soaks the ground, turning the infected green, and fleeing faces are white with fear.
How do populations respond to their own personal apocalypse? “Fear thy neighbor” is the ultimate paranoia tag line making us wonder aloud, “Who can we trust?” The remake of The Crazies brings homage to George Romero’s legacy but makes the audience speculate, what if WE are our own worst enemy?
Directing “The Night of the Living Dead” to “The Crazies” to “Dawn of the Dead” George Romero has been consistent in his outlook on human nature. Romero asks the questions, “What if the monsters we are most concerned about are our neighbors? What if WE are the monsters?” Plying his trade during 1960’s upheaval, Romero bucks Hollywood conventions. Harkening back to classic horror literature, Romero makes us fear ourselves, what things we are capable of, more than our fellow creatures clawing at the door. Whether it be Shelley’s Frankenstein or Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde our real wonderment is not “why did this happen?” but “what have we become?”
Viewers are left to wonder “why?” and “how?” given only glimpses into governmental foul-ups. We have seen it all before and Breck Eisner wants us to see it all again. Directing a re-make is a tricky affair. Eisner blends Romero’s keen conspiratorial insights with 21st century life without missing a beat. Tight, taut story telling unveils its secrets begrudgingly giving new meaning to the word “understatement.” Not once will one think “Oh, come on!” Instead, knowing more dreadful scenes face us, we grip the arms of our seats thinking “Oh, no!” There is nothing campy about this horror flick. Ordinary life is interrupted by extraordinary events. Even on our best days we know it could all come crashing down around us. Runaway bone-saws, the carwash ride from hell, and apocalyptic horrors all begin with a high school baseball game interrupted by a local teetotaler absent-mindedly carrying a shotgun onto the field.
Martial law adds to the madness when containment is broken. Brutal, genocidal military response causes the conspiratist within us to wonder “what if?” The virus makes our heroes run from their neighbors, second guessing themselves. Timothy Olyphant (David Dutton) and Radha Mitchell (Judy Dutton) are the perfect couple for response and escape. Tandem town sheriff and doctor, the protagonists lead us through familiar streets and lives. Building a future over the years in an idyllic community is torn away in two days.
So while some scientific invention has yet again turned the world on its ear, the real question is how will WE respond? Knowing we are our own worst enemy is more terrifying than the makeup artists’ onscreen gore displays. Take away the government occupation and we are left asking the same question David asks of Judy, “Do you want me to try and save us or shall we just sit here and die?”
Rated R for some language, bloody gore, and intense sequences of terror.
Ecklian Reviews: The Crazies (2010) Mark Eckel, Professor of Old Testament, Crossroads Bible College, will never look at a pitchfork the same way again.