Saturday, November 17, 2012

Horror Literacy: The Crazies (2010)

Last Night, I watched Bruck Eisner's remake of The Crazies. I haven't watched Romero's original yet but since the plot, military chemicals altering residents of small town USA, seems to be part of cultural knowledge, there were no real surprises or plot twists. The strength of the film is clearly atmosphere. These Iowans were not caricatures. Their town was a real slice of rural American life. I particularly marveled at the juxtaposition of the mayor's pool in the middle of a flat farmland, an example of rural American pastiche that selectively chooses its comforts. The sudden militarized containment of their humble town gave me shivers. This film, up to the final satellite image, espouses a fear of a faceless military government annihilating a community for the "greater good of America".

Voyeurism is not a new theme in the genre of horror, however, The Crazies distinctly puts the owner of the all-seeing camera into the nameless military. The satellite's computerized gaze shares a lineage with the dreaded panopticon but as a method of execution instead of discipline. Compounded with telecommunications being jammed, the film's rising action prays on the fear of helplessness through isolation.

More importantly, I want to comment on the connection to the zombie genre. I will argue the premise of The Crazies is theoretically more interesting than the common zombie-apocalypse plot. My reason is that two separate, enemy factions for the protagonists creates stronger pacing. There are multiple moments where escaping the threat of the military leads the Duttons and friends into the murderous clutches of the crazies who would be relatively harmless on their own because they are so slow. I see clear connections to video game series that place two enemy factions in the same area as the player's avatar. Such three-way dynamic puts a greater drive for pure survival and escape instead of brute force slaughter. The typical horror conflict of "us vs them" becomes "us vs them vs the government"; a powerful statement in our post 9/11 world where surveillance and military secrecy exist at the fringes of everyday American living.

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