Time Out New York Project: Issue #753, March 4–10, 2010
Dir. Breck Eisner. 2010. R. 101mins. Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson.
Taking a page from the Dawn of the Dead ’04 playbook, this entertainingly shallow remake of George A. Romero’s 1973 horror film opens with a clever use of Johnny Cash (crooning the Dr. Strangelove–closing ditty, “We’ll Meet Again”), then jumps right into the societal breakdown. A man goes nuts at a baseball game. Our hero sheriff (Olyphant) shoots him through the noggin. Seems there’s a destructive force, later determined to be a government-engineered virus, working its way through this small Midwest American town.
Director Breck Eisner (Sahara) has a talent for in-the-moment tension (there’s some pretty memorable business with a pitchfork and an autopsy saw), and it often feels like the characters are plunging headlong through a grisly Rube Goldberg gauntlet. All of which is a lot of fun, until the realization sets in that very little is going on beyond the fright-feature anxieties.
Unlike Romero’s film, what’s missing is a trenchant sense of connection to our historical moment. The original Crazies perceptively shuttled back and forth between bureaucratically hampered Army men and a paranoid populace; it had Vietnam firmly on its mind. Here, the goal is clear — the sheriff and his pregnant wife (Mitchell) need to get the fuck out of Dodge — but the world around them is a half-baked hash of antimilitarist sentiment and goosey jump-scares: Operation Iraqi Hodgepodge.—Keith Uhlich