Generally speaking, the horror movie remake craze of the first decade of the 2000s has been a travesty. Timeless classics, like "A Nightmare on Elm Street", "The Fog" and "Halloween," are cynically redone simply because their titles have trademark value.
I'd say such a film is something that was pretty good the first time around -- had a great concept but maybe didn't have the budget to pull it off. "My Bloody Valentine" was such a film. And so was George Romero's "The Crazies."
Romero's original "The Crazies" is a great little grindhouse film that the general public has never heard of. They certainly do know the remake, which of course received an advertising boost during the 2010 Superbowl.
"The Crazies" remake is also a damn fine horror film, different than Romero's original, taking as much inspiration from the "28 Days Later" films as it does from that mostly forgotten '70s film.
It's also very much a product of our time, delivering a "Tea Party"-like mistrust of the federal government and playing a lot of the most paranoid fears of right-wing nutjobs -- from concentration camps on American soil to black helicopters.
The film opens with a flash forward of a burning town, then takes us to the town sherriff's (Timothy Olyphant) first encounter with "the crazies" -- when a lone nut with a gun shows up on a field during a high school baseball game.
As the townsfolk start going homicidally bonkers one by one (the most horrifying incident being a man burning his family alive in their home), the sherriff's hot doctor wife (Radha Mitchell) becomes suspicious that an epidemic is at hand. When they discover a downed military aircraft in the river upstream, they realize what's going on -- a military experiment gone terribly wrong.
The sherriff wants to shut off the water supply. As in "Jaws," where Roy Scheider's sherriff wanted to shut down the beaches, the city officials don't let him. As a result, things get worse and worse and worse, with creative deaths enacted via farming equipment.
When the feds finally do arrive to make things right -- shredding the Bill of Rights by setting up concentration camps and killing off anyone with symptoms of the Crazies -- a trio of survivors consisting of the sherriff, his wife and a rebellious deputy (Joe Anderson) try to make their way out of town without being killed off by the Crazies or the feds, who are determined not to let anyone get out alive. As tensions develop between the characters, it's difficult to determine whether any are developing "the crazies" or just undergoing the normal pressure you would experience during an apocalyptic-like situation.
The survivors have another problem: Thirsty as they may get, they can't drink any water (like "Invastion of the Body Snatchers," where they can't get any sleep).
A really great, if very derivative, movie, released during the Obama Administration when America's right-wing started exhibiting some of the same paranoia they exhibited under Clinton (fear of black helicopters and government camps), "The Crazies" may stack up as the best remake ever of a '70s horror film. It's certainly better than the "Dawn of the Dead" remake from '04. It's a film you can actually take seriously.