Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson
Directed by: Breck Eisner (“Sahara”)
Written by: Scott Kosar (“The Amityville Horror”) and Ray Wright (“Pulse”)

With as many mediocre horror movies that come out of Hollywood in any given year, there is bound to be some apprehension when a remake of 1973’s “The Crazies” rears it’s ugly, infected head at theaters.

First of all, things don’t look too promising when screenwriters Scott Kosar and Ray Wright are attached to the project when they’ve already penned three unmemorable remakes between them in the last seven years (“The Amityville Horror” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” belong to Kosar; Wright remade a Japanese horror movie into 2006’s yawn-inducing “Pulse”). Secondly, although director Breck Eisner has some talented genes (his father is Michael Eisner, former CEO of Walt Disney), he didn’t make much of a statement when he dropped the cinematic bomb that was the action/adventure “Sahara” in 2005.

Funny thing is, with nothing much going for it, “The Crazies” somehow works rather well. Produced by the original film’s director George A. Romero (“Night of the Living Dead”), “The Crazies” is a stimulating blend of chilling moments, solid characters, and enough violence and gore to make aficionados of the genre screech in delight.

Set in the small, fictional town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, “The Crazies” – if you want to get technical – isn’t part of the zombie culture Romero’s name is usually tied to. This follows a story more in the realm of “28 Days Later” than “Dawn of the Dead.” In the film, townspeople have become infected by something that is turning them all into aggressive, murderous pyschopaths. Unless the military can quarantine the population, the mysterious sickness will eventually infect millions and lead to a global pandemic.

Timothy Olyphant (“A Perfect Getaway”) plays David Dutton, the sheriff of Ogden Marsh who is trying to uncover the reason his neighbors are becoming raving lunatics. Along with his doctor wife Judy (Radha Mitchell), his deputy Russell (Joe Anderson), and his wife’s assistant Becca (Danielle Panabaker), the foursome maneuver their way through town on survive mode and become aware of something more frightening than the virus-plagued antagonists who are after them. There is something inherently wrong with the way the soldiers are sweeping through the farming community and rounding up the sick for testing that points to a government conspiracy.

While “The Crazies” doesn’t offer much in groundbreaking plot or character motivation, it does something so few horror movies do these days: avoids undermining the audience. Instead of cheap thrills created by deceitful editing and lame scare tactics, “The Crazies” stays engaging through its tone and attention to detail. It all makes for an entertaining zombie-type movie featuring military cover-ups, apocalyptic scenarios, and a paranoid cast of characters you can actually root for.

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