Rarely do I see a movie on opening weekend unless it’s something that I’m just absolutely dying to see. The only midnight showing I’ve ever attended for a movie was Superman Returns. I know, you probably think that was a bad choice, but I’m a Superman geek. Not as much as Jerry Seinfeld and not as much as I go goofy for Green Lantern, but I dig Superman.

My issue with opening night/weekend movies is the crowds. The vast majority of people today have no theater etiquette. They talk to each other and the screen. They text. They bring children that are totally age inappropriate for the movies. They shuffle back and forth to the concession stand a half dozen times. They wander in twenty minutes late.

When I go to a theater, my focus is on the movie. I get there twenty minutes early so I can catch all of the previews (which, by the way, the theatrical trailer for the new Nightmare on Elm Street looks incredible), get my popcorn and Cherry Coke, and take my seat. I turn my phone off unless I’m expecting a highly important call from a family member, and even then it’s on silent and stuffed in a pocket so I can see the muted light shining through. I don’t get up unless I’m in danger of urinating or defecating on myself, and I don’t talk.

It annoys me when other people do. Yes, I’m a movie snob. Deal with it.

I broke my rule last week, though, and went to check out The Crazies on opening night. There were a few reasons.

I didn’t figure the movie would draw a big crowd around here for the 9:50 showing on a normal Friday night, and it was snowing pretty hard on top of that. My suspicions were right, as there were only about two dozen people in a 160-seat theater.

I’m also a fan of anything Romero, and this remake of his 1973 non-zombie cult classic had me intrigued.

The clincher was Timothy Olyphant as the lead. I really like this guy and am excited for his new series Justified on F/X. Enough of that, though, on to the movie.

Things start quickly, opening with a startling shot of an entire town engulfed in flame. After a few moments, we get the rewind gimmick, as we see the peaceful town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa in all of its small town, mid western glory.

The sheriff and his deputy, and likely about 95% of the town, is gathered to watch a high school baseball game. Things are going smoothly, as the hometown hero pitcher is whizzing strikes to a nameless batter. The routine is shattered, though, when a rather scraggly looking fellow (carrying a shotgun) wanders into the outfield and stalks his way to the infield dirt.

Olyphant’s sheriff meets the man and tries to reason with him, which doesn’t end entirely well for anyone. From there, things continue to come unraveled.

Standard horror fare of loud noises, sudden movements, and gore are combined with minimal psychology and foreshadowing that never really pays off like you expect to turn the next 90 minutes into a fun – if not brilliant – ride.

Sure, they play along with Romero’s original, which had some political overtones (and what Romero movie doesn’t?) relating to Vietnam. This rendition of The Crazies uses the military more as a vehicle than a true plot device, a cursory explanation to the circumstances as they unfold. I get the feeling this happened because a lot of audiences today can’t stand NOT knowing something. It neither helps nor hurts the story from my viewpoint.

The Crazies is at varying points alternately predictable and genuinely surprising. Its salvation comes in the pacing, as it moves along fast enough to prevent you from being bored but never feels hurried. That’s not an easy feat to accomplish.

Olyphant anchors a capable cast, full of folks that do their job without trying to steal the show. Emotional distress is portrayed without becoming hokey. Exhaustion and paranoia are played without becoming exaggerated. Desperation is painted on faces but doesn’t become overacting.

The ending of the flick may be predictable to some, but it went totally against what I was expecting. As is typical of Romero and Romero-inspired movies, the ending is somewhat bleak..however probably not nearly as dark as what I envisioned happening.

If you’re a fan of the horror genre, of Romero’s style of movies, or just want some fun at the theater that doesn’t require a great deal of thought, then The Crazies is a helluva way to spend a couple of hours.

If you see and enjoy The Crazies, here’s a few other reccomendations –
Night of the Living Dead (black and white version)
28 Days Later
30 Days of Night
Lucio Fulci’s Zombie
Silent Hill


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