20 November 2010

The Crazies

I had to go back and review what I said about the original film to remember my reactions, and although these two are pretty different it's interesting that they both flirt with a kind of infection-paranoia that I find really engaging and exciting without ever following through with it. Here especially, though I remember having similar issues with the original, my main complaint is how inconsistent the infection is. At the beginning of the story, it makes a couple of characters slow, methodical killers with a creepy deadpan (even sing-song) quality to them. In the middle there is much talk (especially with Deputy Russell) that the virus makes you belligerent, violent, and gives you impaired judgment, such that it's difficult under the trying conditions to know whether someone has the Trixie virus or is merely angry, scared, and pushed to the edge. In the end, though, they're basically just your contemporary, fast-running bloodthirsty make-up-heavy zombie monsters: no brain, no personality, just a mindless killer done up in blood and gore and ready to be chopped down in novel and gory ways. The less personality they have, the more the issue becomes (to quote my friend Mr. John C. Worsley) merely an engineering matter, and no longer an engaging character-driven drama or a challenging psychological quandary. You can't engage with a mindless monster, and you don't fear for the person it once was. As soon as you cross that line, it's just zombies, and it's boring.

The movie aims at some kind of commentary, I think, but it comes off more like an intellectual exercise ("given x conditions, and y response, what would be the outcome?"). But since x is plastic, constantly shifting around to suit whatever would make each scene that much grimmer and more exciting, the intellectual exercise is a cheat, even at that. But despite everything I've said, I'd say I liked this film a lot more than I didn't like it. It just kind of kept slipping, notch by notch, from clever and engaging to hollow and exciting. It averages out fairly well, I'd say. But the bar isn't set too high.

A lot of the military response stuff in here touches a nerve in my own script, in that there is a lot of the same kind of attitude and backstory (no doubt semi-consciously influenced by the original The Crazies) in mine as there is here. Only I have to admit, it feels more focused and more sharply handled here than in my own work -- which is just a rough outline, to be fair, so a lot of elements are unfocused and half-conceived right now. But it does give me a lot to think about as I move forward. (I'm sort of staying vague when I talk about "my script," for fairly obvious reasons, and as I've said a dozen times this isn't a blog about my writing, it's a blog about my movie watching. But the two often overlap, and so it gets a mention now and then. What are you gonna do.)

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