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Movie Review

David Dutton is the even-tempered sheriff of the small Iowa town of Ogden Marsh. It's a real nice place full of real nice people, a place where the sheriff calls just about everybody by their first names. Life is good here. And it's about to get better for David and his pretty wife, Judy, who are expecting their first child.

But that blessed event is still six months away. In the meantime, about the worst the sheriff has to contend with is an occasional speeder. What does he do with the rest of his day? Well, spend it walkin' the town, shakin' hands, slappin' backs and maybe taking in a leisurely local baseball game on a lazy summer afternoon.

It's at just such a game, though, on just such a lazy afternoon that David Dutton's idyllic existence starts to come undone. A local farmer named Rory, who once had a reputation as the town drunk, walks glassy-eyed into the middle of right field … carrying a shotgun. And David has to shoot him.

David's loving wife reassures him that he did the right thing, that it'll be OK.

It won't.

Within a day, other townspeople start acting odd. Lingering stares lead to bloody noses in some cases and extreme violence in others. Bill, for instance, burns his house down. With his family locked inside.

When a downed jet and a dead military pilot turn up at the local lake, it doesn't take much for David to piece together what's happened: A terrible toxin has contaminated his town's water supply. He leaps into action, shutting off Ogden Marsh's water. But it's too late. The once-good citizens have begun to lose their minds, working up a foul fondness for certain pointy farm tools along the way.

The ever-vigilant military, always alert for mishaps like these, promptly shows up to take control and separate the populace into two camps: healthy and unhealthy.

David goes to the healthy camp … and Judy doesn't.

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Positive Elements

David is a good man concerned with doing right by the people of his community. When faced with a deranged guy wielding a shotgun, for example, David clears folks from the baseball field and puts himself in the line of fire—taking every second he can to try to talk the man back to sanity before he's forced to shoot him. When it appears that his deputy, Russ, is infected, David bends over backwards to give his friend the benefit of the doubt.

The sheriff is also a loving husband who will sacrifice everything for his wife. He's determined to rescue Judy from her military confines. The fever she's suffering is because of her pregnancy, he believes. When another townsperson whose wife was also taken suggests that going after them would be a "fool's errand," David replies, "Don't ask me why I can't leave my wife, and I won't ask you why you can."

The poisonous chemical brings out the worst of an infected person's inner darkness and anger. In spite of this, one infected victim battles against those effects and sacrifices his life to save David and Judy.

Spiritual Content

An infected character sings, "All things wise and wonderful, and our Lord loves them all."

Sexual Content

We see Judy in bed, where she's wearing a cleavage-revealing tank top.

Violent Content

The movie's violence begins with a mostly bloodless gunshot. It does not set the tone for the rest of the film. The Crazies isn't a zombie movie, per se, but it certainly has the feel of one as Ogden Marsh's populace gradually succumbs to the contaminant, resulting in uncontrollable, flesh-rending frenzies.

One tense scene takes place in a ward-like quarantine room where folks—including Judy—have been strapped down on gurneys. After soldiers run off to deal with a riot, a wild-eyed school principal shambles into the room and begins impaling screaming people with a pitchfork. He slowly drags the makeshift weapon from victim to victim, and we see the tool's prongs emerge from the bottom of each unfortunate's gurney.

Another bloody scene features deranged hunters who track down their neighbors for sport. They follow one screaming man into the burning town square and shoot him in the head, and they stack his corpse along with other gruesome "trophies" piled in the back of their pickup.

When David tries to rescue Judy from an infected woman and her son, the son leaps on David's back and chokes him with a wire while the mother pins his hand to the floor with a kitchen knife. David eventually wrenches his impaled hand from the floor and slashes the woman's throat.

A crowd rampaging against a heavily armed military force results in a smoldering, bloody parking lot strewn with the dead. Soldiers kill an uninfected mother and son and incinerate their bodies with a flamethrower. Judy shoots a man in the forehead. She also discovers truckloads of her dead neighbors. A conscious man is strapped to a table with his eyes and mouth sewn shut. Various vehicles careen, get smashed and explode. And, of course, wave after wave of raging, blister-faced madmen rip, claw, beat, throttle and shoot at the movie's desperately running heroes.

What appears to be an atomic bomb decimates the town and scatters vehicles like matchboxes in the shockwave.

Crude or Profane Language

We hear close to 50 f-words and 25 s-words. There are more than 20 misuses of God's and Jesus' names. (God's is combined with "d‑‑n" more than a half-dozen times.) Other vulgarities include "h‑‑‑," "d‑‑n," "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "b‑‑tard."

Drug and Alcohol Content

When Rory walks onto the baseball field with a gun, everyone assumes he's been drinking again. A boat driver smokes.

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

It's no secret that the horror genre has often served as an incubator for political- and social-commentary subtexts. Back in 1973, for example, it didn't take much imagination to see that George Romero's original version of The Crazies was aimed squarely at the Vietnam War angst of the day. The military opening fire on civilians, for example, was an image that was still painfully fresh just a couple years after the Kent State shootings in 1970.

This time around, it takes no more imagination to see the environmental message mixed into the town's water supply along with the toxin that poisons it. It's so clear, in fact, that the movie's production house, Participant Media (best known for its global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth), has partnered with more than 50 environmental groups for the purpose of encouraging those who see The Crazies to engage in some boots-on-the-ground action. Greenpeace volunteers at the screening I attended, for instance, were handing out petitions advocating the passage of a chemical-security act.

"Everything with Participant has to be socially relevant right down to its DNA," says Participant Media president Ricky Strauss in a New York Times review. He went on to say that sometimes you have to "hide the medicine in the popcorn."

Or, in this case, the gore. Director Breck Eisner's remake is a tense, tightly paced scarefest that has almost as many jump scenes as f-bombs. And trust me, there's enough toxic language here to burn the ears off anyone, um, crazy enough to go sit through it.

"We're not shying away from blood," Eisner opined in an interview with bloodydisgusting.com. "It's horrific and graphic."

He's not exaggerating. This is a hurtling ride full of bullets to the head, spewing fluids and oozing intestinal gush. Oh, and pitchforks being employed in exceedingly unfarmlike ways.

As for Participant Media, Greenpeace and all the other environment groups who've signed on to promote their cause via this violent vision of chemical-crazed humanity, I can't help but wonder what kind of return they're likely to get on their investment. Not once did the film compel me to consider protesting clean water standards.

Mostly it just made me want to take a shower.

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Plot Summary

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