Directed by Breck Eisner
In their broadest terms, the criticisms leveled at President Obama by his detractors, from both the tea-baggers and his former base, sound a lot like those hurled at his predecessor: he’s a warmonger in the pockets of big corporations! He wants to turn our Great Democracy into a totalitarian state! So it’s tough to discern who the crazies in The Crazies—the empty-eyed, unresponsive and homicidal friends-n’-neighbors in director Eisner’s bleak-minded, well-paced Romero “re-imagining”—are meant to represent: are they the voters who yearned for change? Or the
race-anxious homophobic free-marketeer heartlanders who didn’t? Actually, it doesn’t matter! Because the politically broad The Crazies mistrusts partisans of all stripes.
With a drawl that makes him affably easygoing even when distressed, Timothy Olyphant, last seen helping lead last year’s unappreciated A Perfect Getaway, plays David, the sheriff of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, a.k.a. Flyover Country, where the ring fingers got weddin’ rings on ’em, sunshine sparkles off of vast empty spaces, long empty roads cut through wide open fields and… haggard men wander onto baseball diamonds with loaded smoothbores? Such is the first podunker to come down with a case of the crazies, followed by other putative familymen who repurpose farmtown signifiers into objects of familiacidal terror: shotguns, combine harvesters, gas cans. (Well, duh. Country livin’ is dangerous, even without a homocidifying disease going around.) Ball fields and high school hallways become seats of violence; within two days the whole burg’s ablaze. The military soon arrives, bringing a taste of the War on Terror to Cedar Rapids: quarantined internment camps and the indiscriminate extermination of unarmed civilians (a la 28 Weeks Later).
The threat to the town, then, comes from without and from within: the affliction is an army experiment gone wrong, or something (The Mist); the cure (army annihilation) is just as deadly as the disease (28 Days Later); the viral bioweapon spreads through the drinking water (Dr. Strangelove). (This rarely smiling movie repeatedly nods to Kubrick’s manic satire, from “We’ll Meet Again” over its opening credits to its mushroom-cloud finale.) It’s the New American Nightmare: nutso neighbors and fatalitizing feds, together bringin’ nothing but gore: the pessimistic movie moves from set piece to grisly set piece, the best of which finds our heroes trapped in a carwash while attacked by soap, scrubbers and crazies. The government creates the crazies, then battles the crazies, and the ones who suffer are the innocently uninfected, as in the non-ideological, caught in the crossfire. Whether the titular head cases are wingnuts of the left or right, whether the armed forces act on behalf of the Bush regime or Obama, doesn’t matter because the film fears any and all brands of sectarianism. (Though it’s worth noting that the film is set in Iowa, the First Primary State, where Obama’s 08 caucus victory put him on the road to Pennsylvania Avenue.) Oh, pity the poor independent [of considered opinions] voter!
Opens February 26