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The Crazies

The Crazies is a loose remake of a 1973 George Romero flick that most people, including yours truly, have either forgotten or never heard of. In some cases that kind of ignorance might serve as a hindrance, but since The Crazies is a zombie flick, and all zombie flicks are essentially the same, you can rest assured it won't bother you here.

B-movie A-listers Timothy Olyphant (A Perfect Getaway, Hitman) and Radha Mitchell (Surrogates, Silent Hill) star as David and Judy Dutton, husband-and-wife residents of the quaint hamlet of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, home to precisely the kind of close-knit farming community, long on assault weapon ownership and short on reliable cell phone access, that zombies so famously prefer. The rest of the Crazies cast is filled with faces you vaguely recognize from that movie whose name you can't recall at the moment. Don't fret — just about all of them end up dead (or undead).

David is the town sheriff and Judy is the town doctor — a combination which, conveniently enough, makes them better prepared than anyone to face both a sudden outbreak of the undead flu and the violent anarchy that inevitably follows it. Judy also happens to be pregnant (but not so pregnant as to render her unappealing to male audience members, thank God), giving the couple an added incentive to endure the onslaught and not blow each other's brains out.

First come the zombies, infected by bioweapon-tainted tap water, followed quickly by members of the U.S. government's jack-booted, heavily-armed clean-up crew. Though their wardrobe and tactics differ, both groups exhbit a casual disdain for human life and a seemingly insatiable bloodlust — same menace, different uniforms. As government stooges and ravenous zombies compete to determine who will destroy Ogden Marsh first, heroes David and Judy scramble to escape the town alive.

Director Breck Eisner, son of Michael and the man responsible for 2005's Sahara, shows surprising restraint with the gore in The Crazies, filling the screen with enough blood to justify the film's R-rating but not enough to test the gag reflex. He has the good sense to parcel out dialogue and backstory in small bits and pieces, keeping the tension high and reducing the groan-worthy moments to a relatively respectable level. There's nothing particularly original in The Crazies, mind you, but given the choice between a solidly-crafted retread and an innovative pile of rubbish, I'll gladly take the former. rated this film 3 1/2 stars.