This is Jeff Bayer, and I don't update this site very often. If you'd like to listen to my current movie podcast you can find it at MovieBS.com.

He Said - She Said ... The Crazies

It did not take a mysterious brain-melting chemical to have our writers turn on each other in this especially violent version of "He Said - She Said." No, it only took a movie about said topic to have Morrow McLaughlin and Nick Allen question each other's sanity when it comes to movie reviewing. It's fitting, at least, that this should be over a film titled The Crazies.

CLICK HERE for complete coverage of The Crazies including interview with Radha Mitchell

PLOT: A chemical used for biochemical warfare is inadvertently released into the water supply of a small, Aw-Shucks Iowa town and the afflicted go batty.

(As always, we recommend that you see the film before reading, as we do discuss spoilers below.)

Let us hope that there is no virus outbreak in the near future, simply for the sake of avoiding a lifelong argument between the two concerning what is logical to do when zombies/infected folk are popping out from every corner. She Said (And Rightly So):

The Crazies was damned entertaining and I don't mind saying I loved it. I did--I LOVED IT. Now, word around town has it that some other critics near and dear to my heart, though they live far and away, would merely deign to give The Crazies a four or five. This, to me, says he's been drinking the water and he lives way too close to Rory, the shotgun guy. Soon, said critic will be staring into space and muttering the same things over and over, like how he didn't like the font in Avatar and Wolverine: Origins was the bestest movie ever. We'll have to watch ourselves at this point, lest he get his mitts on an axe or even a really sharp pencil.

The Crazies is the classic, jumping out at someone from around a corner, scare-fest and it never slacks off. First thing I loved about it: it dumps you into the action almost immediately. I'm at a horror film, people, I don't really care if the doctor's assistant wants to sneak off to see her boyfriend--let's cut to the action! And The Crazies playfully spirals you into hell just as soon as it possibly can. The movie is so perky about it's diablerie--if this movie were whistling a tune under its breath, it would have to be "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" by (I know you already know) The Beatles. Sometimes you know what's on its way as far as the scare tactics go (eyeball in the keyhole, etc.), but it's still effective.

And lastly but not leastly, there is only ONE time in the whole film when I thought that the main characters were acting like morons with poor impulse control. That's pretty darned good, since most horror protagonists seem to be sniffing glue for most of their scenarios (dark basement by myself? Sure! Run, screaming through the woods at night? Check!"

The Crazies ROCKED!

He Said

Morrow, Morrow, Morrow. I definitely know when scare-fests can be fun, or, rock, as you say this one claims. I've liked my share (see: our debate over Friday the 13th). But this is not one of them. The Crazies is not the classic "jumping out at someone from around a corner" kind of movie, it's just another one. There isn't too much particularly special about this meh-fest, except that it's noticeably more energized than Romero's original. This movie really capitalizes on the modern audience's thirst for absolute chaos, but it delivers such so clumsily that it was difficult to have fun with. So yes, it's better than the original, but it still doesn't take the idea of a biochemical/semi-zombie horror flick to its full potential. To maintain it's terrifying reality, it should have been much more surprising - I'm talking Julianne Moore's death in Children of Men shocking.

Okay, so the image of a stone-faced man randomly stomping towards a baseball field with a shotgun in his hand is a compelling one. But, the followthrough isn't, as it becomes a no-brainer standoff with the macho Olyphant (who is a more operating zombie throughout the movie) taking out said dude with little fear instilled in the audience. Even when the movie later goes to the funeral home, I remember thinking, "Wow, funeral homes are scary, this would be perfect!" No. Instead, The Crazies shoots itself in the foot with a BS "Look behind you!" moment (literally, the stich-face man says that) and the fun is lost. Same with the pitchfork scene. Too obvious who was going to die and when, and there was not enough "craziness" injected to the use of such formula.

I realized more throughout this movie that I was more terrified of a loud boom sound than I was of some guy popping from behind Olyphant or Radha Mitchell. The "eye through the keyhole" predictable scares that you are so forgiving of absolutely did not sit well with me, and it made the movie slow and worst of all, progressively mediocre. I remember being on the edge during the crazy man Bill scene, but the conclusion of that moment indicated to me how the rest of the picture was going to roll.

The Crazies really wasn't that good!

Okay, so the apache scene. In all ways, it was far too set up. A car wash? I did laugh when the car blew up, but it was not with the movie. It was at it, followed by a mental note of, "That was too bizarre for comic relief."

She Said

Holy crap, Nick, are you really going to bring up Friday the 13th? That was a stupid slasher movie! Slasher movies are the slutty cousin at the horror family picnic, and yet you're using it as proof that you know what you're talking about when you dis on The Crazies. I am flabbergasted. Why must we rehash this? Let it go: Friday the 13th was a drooling lobotomy behind a mask.

This sort of movie isn't likely to spring a surprise on you when it comes to the characters. The surprises will be much more plot-centric. Obviously, you know ahead of time who's cannon-fodder. As soon as Judy saved Becca in the makeshift sanitarium, I had Becca pegged as a goner and it was only a matter of time. In this way, it's transparent enough to be slightly irritating, but it doesn't subtract from the movie's entertainment.

But the car exploding at the car wash? That was awesome! I LOVE that sort of grisly twist--damned if they did, damned if they didn't, screwed either way scenario. No matter how tough and shrewd these people are, the odds are just way too overwhelming. And yet, they keep plugging away, struggling to survive while the civilized world crumbles around them. It's the primitive root of human nature, pitting itself hopelessly against modern technology and science run amok.

As far as the "Behind you," guy is concerned, that's a matter of scare tastes. I could take it or leave it, you disliked it, and the woman behind me whooped in terror. Here's what bothered me about that scene: you know the dude's still alive, but there's no attempt to help him out? You were spared a rudimentary neutering, and that's great, but how about giving the stitched guy a much needed hand?

It "delivers clumsily" on the chaos? How! Explain yourself, mister! And the second you stray into vague generalizations, I'm calling you out.

He Said

I agree with you about stich-face man, and his unfortunate fate. Dammit, one of only two police officers in town, try to think of someone other than yourself once in a while.

As for my "vague generalization" - even when a movie has chaos, and things are supposed to be running amok, that does not excuse them from the possibility of being too goofy to be serious. For example, the scene with the mother and the son. At first too overdramatic, with the mother running away from the army (oh, and gee whiz, she gets blasted), only to be toppled by the absurdity of the son running toward her (he suffers the same fate). Most of the scenes with mustache-cop were difficult to really take serious, 1.) because his "craziness" was on its own convenient timer, meaning it was slower than others and also more selective as to when it would "peak" with moments of violence 2.) he was a bad actor 3.) the ambigulously handy duo (doctor and sherriff) weren't sharp enough in thinking what was really going on inside of the head of handle-bar dude (but they let him carry a shotgun in the car etc. for a good amount of time).

Then, of course, there's the car wash, which stands out as one of the more forced scenes from the movies this year. To run for cover, the creative forces decided to have them hide out in a car wash? Also, why were there so many random "crazies" just hanging out at a place where cars get cleaned? The writer(s) couldn't think of a better place to hide out, like a giant stable or a super Wal-Mart?

The Crazies wanted so hard to create a sense of chaos, but it becomes difficult to be scared "with" a movie when things seem more off than they should be. And if that method doesn't work, then what are you left with? Consistent loud booms that try to resemble "scares," which is the downfall of other disappointing and mediocre horror movies of today.

She Said

And I thought I was a semi-dangerous weirdo. The scene where the mother and son are gunned down by our military was really tragic and awful. If someone was manhandling my mother, I would've reacted the exact same way he did. I sympathized with everyone in that scene and I accepted that I too would have ended up as worm-chow. So...you wouldn't run out and try to help your mom if she was being hauled off by dudes in haz-met gear to an unknown and probably horrible fate? Note to self: Nick is not a stalwart safety buddy during any apocalypse.

Okay and the crazy deputy toting the shotgun, that was just denial on the part of Olyphant's character. At one point, the deputy says that he's worried he's getting sick and the Sheriff basically tells him that he isn't allowed to get sick. "The deputy does what the sheriff says." If you were in that situation with a good friend, you would hold out until the very last iota of sanity drained out of him. People slip into raging denial for far less than the end of civilization as we know it.

And as for his craziness being on a different timer than everyone else, you don't actually know that. You weren't with the other crazies from the very onset of the degeneration. The audience is with handlebar mustache guy for almost the entire movie, and since the whole film unfolds in about 72 hours, you bear witness to his gradual descent into unreasonable violence. You spend more time with handlebar than you do town drunkard. And I didn't think he was that bad of an actor, so now you're just nitpicking.

The doctor DID bring up that she thought handlebar was getting sick and that she thought he shouldn't be so heavily armed, but her husband shot down the suggestion. Taking the gun away from the guy would've meant admitting he might be sick and the sheriff didn't want to admit that to himself or to anyone else. Again, I would've done the same thing, especially if said person had repeatedly saved my ass.

The car wash has deeply offended you. I can't talk you out of your disgust for the car wash. You can't accept that the crazies at the car wash likely worked there and that's why they stayed there; and you won't be open to the suggestion that the car wash could've just as easily been a minimart or liquor store or any other commercial eyesore out in the middle of nowhere. But the car wash was cool. When I was a kid, I was terrified of the car wash, because I thought it was like being digested by a giant alien spider. Now you've got giant alien spider digestion along with possible glimpses of axe-wielding madmen and the car locked in place. Now there's some delicious horror.

A giant stable? I think you're confusing long stretches of empty Midwestern highways with antebellum southern plantations. And they did hide in something akin to a Super Walmart, because that's when I thought they were being way too loud and screamy. Did you want them to hide out in more than one giant store of crap? They could just scurry from Walmart to Target to Kmart...and while we're on the topic, you think there would be LESS crazies at a Super Walmart? Going to Walmart NOW is as good as The Crazies ride at Universal Studios.

I thought The Crazies was perfect entertainment. Would you have liked it more if there were more shirtless, big-breasted women ("TITTIES! TITTIES!") getting bludgeoned to death with farming tools?

He Said

Eureka! You have FINALLY understood what makes a horror movie truly entertaining, especially for every single movie-going male (because I assume that's who you're lumping me in with). You see, I don't go to horror flicks for the surprises, any resemblance of originality, or even the the possibility of having the film let me feel something about the characters or topics. No, I go strictly for the hams.

Listen - the zombie genre has seen better days, and The Crazies is not one of its finer moments. Especially once the social commentary is dropped for a typical cheap-scared fill plot, you are left with a more typical production, one that surpasses its remake mostly because it's not as boring. (Yeah, that's right, I said that Romero's version is too slow).

However, when watching Breck Eisner's remake, with its unforgivably goofy moments (see above) and bad acting (especially you, Mr. Olyphant), I thought I wasn't watching another version of Romero's unique idea (biochemical chaos where the US army becomes the enemy), but instead a re-visioning of the classic 1996 film The Stupids. Starring Tom Arnold.

Flicks on 6 - 'Cop Out,' 'The Crazies' and 'The White Ribbon'

33rd Portland International Film Festival - Audience Awards