The Crazies (2010) Blu-ray Review

Ashamedly never having seen George Romero’s The Crazies (1973), I lack context to know how Anchor Bay’s 2010 remake compares. As a story about small town folk who become lethally unhinged much to the detriment of the “uninfected” forced to fight for their lives, it’s a taunt, tension inducing horror flick. And as director Breck Eisner wishes to drive home, this is not a zombie movie though surface comparisons are easy to make.

Set in haunting, open landscapes of middle America, sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant), wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) along with deputy Clank (Joe Anderson) find themselves caught between fellow residents who have become contaminated with an unknown toxin and the ominous military presence that descends on Ogden Marsh, Iowa to quell the outbreak. What separates “the Crazies” from your average undead is that the infection doesn’t make them all mindless, flesh eaters but rather tunes into their repressed desires. Some retreat into a childhood mentality, but many manifest psychotic impulses resulting in the bloody violence that drives the story.

As we learn from the Blu-ray commentary, the original script accentuated “action” splitting the viewpoint between the military and the townsfolk. Eisner wanted to highlight the horror aspect and left the invading government forces as a shadowy menace, telling the story from the perspective of the residents. The narrative effectively plays upon our fears of both biological outbreaks such as H1N1 and suspicions surrounding “who can you trust” when your neighbors may be the enemy. These combined threads result in a heightened sense of paranoia where the main players are fighting for survival, all the while hoping not to become the next infected or fearing the fallout from when their loved ones join “the Crazies.”

High-Def Presentation

Anchor Bay turns in a solid 1080p transfer that does justice to the film-like quality of the visuals (shot in 35 mm) integrating over 150 CGI shots in an often seamless manner (well the final scene which I won’t give away is obviously “fake” but works well in context). Starting with a naturalist palette as we get introduced to small town life and becoming more stylized (through pronounced use of color saturation and contrast tweaking) as the terror escalates, the visuals don’t steal the show but work exceedingly well to support the constant tension. Film grain is for the most part minimal though does become prominent in some darker, under-exposed scenes, and thankfully no compression issues, print damage or obnoxious levels of digital tampering are present on this Blu-ray image.

The uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 audio is excellent at maintaining a heightened sense of atmosphere throughout with noticeable .LFE response and aggressive use of the surrounds that compliments the more subdued segments leading up to the “jump out of your seat” moments. Dialog is always crisp, never getting lost in the mix that showcases Mark Isham’s foreboding score to great use and is responsible for more than a few unsettling junctures for us viewers. It’s really hard to fault the lossless audio as it adds to the growing paranoia that the movie brings.

Beyond the Feature

If you really want to dig into background details skip the video materials and go straight to the Director commentary. Eisner delivers an encyclopedic knowledge of the film’s production (including casting, script changes, make-up, budgetary constraints, Romero influences and numerous on-set anecdotes) while being engaging, clearly spoken and talking virtually non-stop over the whole length of the film. This is one excellent commentary that covers most everything the video supplements do with much more depth.

We also get a collection of high-def video featurettes including input from director, producer, actors, make up artists and Romero fans. Behind the Scenes with Director Breck Eisner (10:35, HD) and Paranormal Pandemics (9:31, HD) are a step above PR fluff with some half decent chatter about fleshing out the Crazies and the thematics of the film. The George A. Romero Template (9:56, HD) delves into the overt political themes of the director’s movies and how the original Crazies plays into counter culture and anti government feelings from Vietnam. Make Up Mastermind Rob Hall In Action (11:27, HD) is an interesting look at the prosthetics, glued on veins and airbrushing over three hours of “make up” application while Visual Effects In Motion (3:42, HD) shows several shots before CGI background, color correction and effect highlights applied and after.

Closing out the supplements is Storyboards: Building A Scene and Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery, each self explanatory and not overly interesting, along with Trailers (5:37, HD) and The Crazies Motion Comic Episodes 1 and 2 (27:24, HD).

A second DVD holds digital copies of the movie playable on both Mac and PC.

2010’s The Crazies isn’t the best horror film ever but more than holds its own against the hack n’ slash offerings of the genre these days, plus Timothy Olyphant plays his trademark “everyman” role to great effect as usual. There are a few moments of contrivance you’ll have to bear with to move the plot along, but you’ll soon get caught up in the violent mayhem and lunacy gripping Ogden Marsh.

Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray delivers very respectable HD video and exceptional uncompressed audio. Add in an excellent commentary and some middle of the road video features (the make-up one is worth the effort) and you get a decent high-def package that won’t end up on any one’s “best of” list but makes for a tense and entertaining time.

– Robert Searle

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