Slow zombies attack because they're hungry. Fast zombies attack because they're pissed. The infected in The Crazies remember what it is they're pissed about.
Unlike zombies, these infected still possess reason and logic. Unlike humans, the infected no longer possess caring, or self-control. So, unfortunately, what pisses them off doesn't have to be much. And their retaliations can be pretty severe -- not in the try-to-bite-your-face-off kind of way. It's just stunning overreaction, and psychopathic lack of remorse.
It's a crashed plane that started the whole mess. The plane landed in a bog near the town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, and the stuff it was carrying has leaked into the town's water supply. Those closest to the town's water supply are already pretty far gone by the time we see them. We wind up seeing the infected at different stages and the earlier symptoms can be as mild as dreamy dementia. But as the infection progresses, the infected become prone to unexpected outbursts of temper. Most of our unease comes from not being able to read the intentions of people as their illness sets in.
The Crazies plays around with this theme of curious intentions in a variety of ways. For instance, when the military arrives to intervene, it's only clear that they're there to halt the spread of the infection. It isn't clear whether their presence is supposed to be menacing, or if it just appears that way. We don't hear them say much, and there's a lot of mystery in that silence
Later, when everything in town goes to hell in a handcart (and i'm not spoiling much by telling you that's where it goes -- the first 30 seconds of the movie are a flashforward to the town after the mayhem has hit its peak) it's hard to tell which of the anonymous figures wildly patrolling the town are uninfected citizens fighting for their lives, and which are fully infected citizens looking for fresh ass to kick.
Events in The Crazies unfold with a great sense of timing. You could argue that that's more a necessity in horror films than a bonus. Where, for instance, would your average slasher movie be without the Hand That Appears Out Of Nowhere (or for that matter, the Knife Wound, or Cat, or Complete Innocent Bystander That Appear Out Of Nowhere)? But there are gradations of cleverness and style when it comes to how events are timed, and in both categories, the Crazies rates pretty high.
But the best, most lasting images in horror are the ones we get to sit with for more than a split second. The jolt-shot gets a start out of us, gets our heart racing. But it's always the Thing We Wish We Hadn't Seen that we take to with us to our nightmares when the movie's over. The best horror directors understand that we remember best, not what we find shocking, but what we find appalling. And once again, The Crazies rates pretty high here.
The Crazies is a remake of a George Romero flick from the seventies. I've never seen the original, and I've been told to avoid it. I'll happily comply. The 2010 version is directed by Breck Eisner (son of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner). It's tough to get a bead on him, because so far, his only other really high profile movie is Sahara which I found about as enjoyable as a bird crapping on my head. He's slated to remake Flash Gordon and Escape From New York, both of which have the potential to be actually awesome, so long as Eisner brings what he brought to the Crazies. If good directing is good decision making, there's reason to believe he's improving as he goes along.
Always nice to lead off Thon with a good one.