Ah, bucolic little Ogden Marsh, Iowa, population 1,260 (Go Tigers!). What a happy town.

Hey, is there a ball game today? Ayup, I reckon so. Hey, is that the town drunk toting a shotgun and marching toward the pitcher’s mound? Ayup.

So much for Ogden Marsh, Iowa.

You see, there’s something in the water, and it’s slowly turning the townsfolk into– well… crazies. Catatonic, whistle-happy, murdering crazies.

Based on the 1973 George Romero cult hit of the same name (he also executive produced this version) and directed by Breck Eisner (son of former Disney honcho Michael), The Crazies is a pretty solid 100 minutes of entertainment. Part ‘zombie’ film, part horror, and mostly thriller, it has its fair share of clich├ęs (the serendipitous last-second bullets, the not-really-dead-yet jump at the camera, the over-the-top gore– this time courtesy of a pitchfork) but it’s also got more than handful of smartly written (and even more smartly edited) bits. I’ll wager you’ve never seen a car wash scene quite like the one you see here, in fact.

Timothy Olyphant stars as Sheriff Dave Dutten, the quiet-cool voice of law and order in his one-stop-light town. Together with his pregnant wife Judy, the town doc (Radha Mitchell), he’s forced to step up to the plate and figure out what the heck’s happened and (oh yeah) stay alive.

Early on, all hell breaks loose, courtesy of the U.S. military– which helps The Crazies veer out of slasher horror-dom and more into the realm of pulse-pounding thriller. It’s a welcome and refreshing switch from the ordinary, and it’s what keeps this from being just another blood-fest.

Credit goes to Eisner and his screenwriters for crafting such a relatively high level of entertainment on such a tiny budget (it’s already made back the $12M it cost to make). Olyphant is perfect, continuously injecting a decent amount of humanity into his role, and Mitchell, though occasionally a little too serious (fault the role, not the actor), is also great.

If this is your kind of movie, you shouldn’t miss it.

Ayup, I reckon.

3.5/5 stars