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The Crazies (2010)


Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson
Director: Breck Eisner
Screenwriter: Scott Kosar, Ray Wright
Rating: R for bloody violence and language

“The Crazies” is a remake of the George A. Romero horror classic of the same name. Wait, let me rephrase that to better suit the situation. “The Crazies” is yet another one of those remakes based on an already famous horror film. I can’t imagine how these remakes keep getting green-lit. I mean, the fanbase can’t be that tempting for producers to drool over the posibility of huge profits. And if it’s not the money, what is it about these ideas that drive them towards unoriginal rehashes ? Remake hate aside though, “The Crazies” isn’t all that bad aside from genre familiarity.

The overall story can be immediately and shortly summed up as follows: a small american town is plagued by an epidemic of madness, the army places the town and its inhabitants under lockdown, but a handful of survivors try to make their way out of the city after they realise the army has no intention to allow them to leave, since the virus causing all the mayhem is their doing. This adventure from hell is focused on the local sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) who is separated by the army from his pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell), and sneaks back into town to rescue her, picking up other survivors on the way and fighting their way out of town.

There’s a good side and a bad side to this movie. The good side is that it’s an effectivily chilling horror flick, well directed, decently written, tense and paranoid, violent to satisfy gore-hounds, but not enough to turn off casual audiences. The bad side is that there isn’t a single thing that hasn’t been done before, both better and worse. This is your tipical survival horror. I was surprised to find that the “crazies” don’t even make much of an impression. They’re basically zombies. They don’t eat flesh, but they kill in brutal, insane ways. The make-up is a little overdone and distracting. Something a little more subtle would have helped fuel a deeper sense of paranoia. The soldiers become the real villains of the story about half-way through. They are under orders to kill everyone, infected or not, so the survivors have to hide from both the infected and the soldiers, which is a nice touch (credit to the original film).

Much of the movie’s appeal comes from the paranoid vibe. Who is crazy and who isn’t. Are the infected any different from the “crazies” we already have among us. How can you tell if the person standing next to you carries the virus or is simply crazy. That, I guess, is part of the ‘70s paranoid thriller vibe that translates pretty well today, but somehow, it’s pretty clear the movie is more interested in the potential for carnage, allowing breaths of subliminal messages to appear only briefly. You simply go through the motions of a ride, nothing more.

In the end, it’s just another remake. It’s slightly more clever than the average remake (especially the Michael Bay-produced ones), but it won’t make any more memorable. It looks and feels polished, and I can’t imagine a director doing a better job with this story. I think they could have done better by finding a different story than the original’s. I mean the foundation is there, why not build something different, instead of the same story with different props. And this is only one of the countless remakes still to come.

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Eye for an Eye (1996)


eye for an eye

7

Starring: Sally Field, Ed Harris, Kiefer Sutherland, Joe Mantegna
Director: John Schlesinger
Screenplay : Amanda Silver based on a novel by Erika Holzer
Rating : R for language and disturbing violence which includes rape

Once in a while, when screenwriters lose their inspiration, they go back to the everlasting Hollywood formulas. The so-called revenge film, in which amateur vigilantes take matters of law into their own hands to punish a certain crime, mostly of a personal nature. From the old classics starring Charles Bronson, to the “Punisher” comics and films, and the more recent “Death Sentence” (from the director of “Saw”) and “The Brave One (starring Jodie Foster, directed by Neil Jordan), they bring about a discussion which is way more important than the commercial practices of Hollywood : how justified is the “eye for an eye” line of thinking and/or necessary in today’s society, a society filled with malice, where apparently everything is allowed.

This is the issue the film “Eye for an Eye” displays, under the directorial effort of John Schlesinger (“Midnight Cowboy”, “Day of the Locust”, “Marathon Man” and the horrid “The Next Best Thing”). Karen McKann (Sally Field) lives a very normal life with her husband Mack (Ed Harris) and her two daughters Megan and Julie. One day, coming home from work, she calls home to see how the preparations for her younger daughter, Megan’s birthday, and is surprised to hear Julie answer, who she thought was at school. While they talk, a man breaks into their home, rapes and kill Julie while Karen helplessly hears it all through the phone. The police apprehend the killer, a man named Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland), but because of a procedural error, the case is dismissed and Doob is set free. Karen cannot cope with this situation and is very close to see her life spiraling out of control. But, while participating at some support groups for bereaved parents she comes in contact with Sidney Hughes, a man who supplies grieving parents with the means to carry out their revenge against those whom the law set free. He supplies the weapon and plan, but Karen will be the one who will have to pull the trigger.

“Eye for an Eye” is peculiar little film. It’s biggest gain lies in the fact that unlike the usual cliché of the male vigilante, this time we get a middle-aged woman carrying out the revenge. On the other hand, everything else feels like a by-the-numbers thriller. There are moments that seem to be aiming higher, towards a psychological drama, but they’re quickly dissipated. The only complex character is Karen, convincingly portrayed by Sally Field, an experienced actress who’s onscreen presence lifts the material, even when it turns heavily melodramatic. There are scenes that provide more texture to her personality and add to her suffering. The rest of the characters are, however, poorly developed. Ed Harris’ nice-guy husband is simply furniture, Beverly D’Angelo’s best friend is conventional to say the least (boring and useless to be really mean), Joe Mantegna’s detective investigating the case is the usual poster-boy for incompetence, even though it’s clear that his hands are tied by the laws he serves, and last but not least Kiefer Sutherland’s villain is the classic stereotype whose only character trait is his outstanding cruelty, pushed to the higher limits of menacing behaviour only to justify his “death sentence”.

Maybe the most important aspect of this film could have been the interesting debate on veangeful capital punishment, especially as far as human psychology goes. But nothing is ever treated so seriously, perhaps because the director feared the possibility of debating what is supposed to be the film’s thrilling side. In one of the scenes, Kare asks Mack if he believes in the death penalty, and he answers that in Doob’s case he does. That’s about it regarding a discussion about that topic, as if justifying her later actions in order to simplify the moral aspect. I can appreciate the film taking a certain position on the problem and carrying on, I certainly wouldn’t want it to be too talky, but I would have liked a complex character asking complex questions, without it ending like it does in Hollywood, all clean and neat.

I don’t want anyone to believe they should avoid this movie. On the contrary, it should be seen at least once, for Sally Field, and the possibility of sparking an interesting discussion regarding the credibility or motivations of her actions. But, for a really good vigilante film, seek “The Brave One”.

Christine (1983)


Christine1

7

Starring : Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Harry Dean Stanton
Director: John Carpenter
Screenplay: Bill Phillips based on a novel by Stephen King
Rating : R

The relationship between man and car can be considered one of mutual interest. Man needs car for transport and mobility, and, strictly from an existential point of view, car needs man to own it, and use it. What happens though, if your car has special needs. What if it doesn’t just require you to drive it, but also to love it and care for it, for you to be owned by it, body and soul. You’ll probably say that’s absurd, but Christine will contradict you.

Who is Christine ? SHE is a red ’57 Plymouth Fury, top of the line back in the day, and she is also a living entity, expressing herself through old songs spontaneously blaring out of her radio. Cool, right ? Wrong ! As the opening shots taking place in the factory where she was built reveal (with “Bad to the Bone” rocking on the soundtrack), she is not very friendly with anyone who doesn’t treat her right. Thirty years later, in bad shape, dusty and forgotten, she is sold to a young highschool geek by the name of Arnie Cunningham. He spends a lot of time restoring her to her glory-days’ shape, and his efforts will not go unnoticed. Christine starts to bring Arnie closer to her dark core, possessing him and changing him. He becomes more aggressive, arrogant and over-confident, isolating himself from his family, his best friend Dennis and his girlfriend Leigh, and Christine starts to kill all those who stand between her and Arnie. Dennis and Leigh eventually realise the dark influence of Christine and they try to find a way to separate the man from the machine.

Carpenter is the undisputed king of B flicks. Without a doubt, if you need a director for a film about a possessed car, then he is the man for the job. Because of Stephen Kings’ popularity at the time, the film went into production even before the book came out. That’s proof that the Hollywood money-making machine never sleeps, just as Christine never does. Carpenter, also famous enough because of his previous successes with “Halloween”, “Escape from New York”, and “The Thing”, is always on top of the story with a steady-hand, never letting the awkward plot lose focus or seem too absurd. He dictates the rhythm, which is constant, tense, with a lot of carefully chosen frames, and some interesting practical visual effects for Christine (in some scenes she regenerates after suffering severe damage). It’s not really an action film, although there is at least one important chase scene to speak of, but it’s really more focused on atmosphere and plenty of ominous close-ups of Christine, which leaves the movie feeling a little empty. It’s also very clean in terms of gore, probably Carpenter’s most blood-free film ever. The leading parts are played mostly by unknowns, which adds to a sense of teenage innocence as no big names appear in the credits. They play their parts convincing enough to prevent you from throwing stuff at the screen. I would to say that the script does a similarly good job, but it falls short when it comes to going all the way with ideas like the “special” relationship” between Arnie and Christine, or the illusion of power and the transformations it implies, but the truth is, the film is stuck at the story level of a killer car on a rampage. Of course, being only aprox. 100 min. in length, they needed to prioritize, so character development and deep-thought issues are the first to go. I guess if more were possible, this would have turned into a mini-series.

I can’t complain though. Sure, it’s not Carpenter’s best, nor is it the best Stephen King adaptation ever, but it is a middleweight horror, with plenty of fun to be had and a satisfying mood for fans of the genre. It will definetly make you think crazy thoughts the next time you enter a vehicle.