Anchor Bay's VC-1 transfer for The Crazies is excellent.
The 2.40:1 frame is detailed, three-dimensional, emboldened by finely saturated colours when called for and grounded with reasonably deep blacks and a tight contrast. It is, in short, exactly how would want to see a modern-made and stylishly glossy horror film.
Detail is precise and rewarding, even in moments of subdued lighting. Close-up facial detail is fine with crags, pores, hairs and all the usual stuff well resolved and delineated without any smudging or waxiness creeping in. The infected show up well, revealing in 1080p all the risen veins, the burst blood-vessels in the eyes, the wounds and festering sores that you could wish for. Even during the poorly-lit and shadow-drenched scene when Judy is menaced in the diner by the hunters carries a clearly defined array of information even in the background. Look at the various bodies heaped in the freezer - all manner of injuries and nastiness can be examined. Check out the unpleasant stitching on one poor individual's mouth and eyes. Individual blades of grass, or sheaves of corn can be finite, but they can also be slightly less well delineated on other occasions, which I would put down to the photography. The image does like the smaller, more magnified things like wood-grain and foliage, although some patterning on the walls of the baby's bedroom seems slightly soft and not as well-etched. But this is definitely a transfer that has been meticulously and faithfully overseen.
The film does an unusual look, though. The palette has been deliberately manipulated and corrected in post-production to achieve a distinctive look, meaning that although colours are strongly reproduced, there is a proclivity towards the greens and browns, which helps to provide an atmospheric cast to the film that drains glare from the daylight scenes and provides a sort of neon-glow to the night-times. Not quite “earthy”, and not quite vivid, but something in-between. However, the various clothing that we see can often be bright and colourful enough to appear warm even when viewed from a distance - check out the attack on the quarantine base by angry townsfolk who storm the perimeter fence. Blood and gore is vivid enough, but still realistically dark and decidedly un-garish. Certain bullet-hits, particularly the sudden head-shot, stand-out very nicely though, if you like that kind of thing. The red of the big rig that Dutton wants to commandeer is bright and bold when lit up, and the dusty orange fireball, when it comes, is smartly rendered. An earlier explosion, of a vehicle outside the car wash is wonderfully crisp and bright.
Shadows are very good, but the visual cast means that they don't reach Stygian depths. Again, there is this sort of neon infiltration that seems purposely designed to filter through the darker extremes. The annoying thing is that I've seen this look before, and I can't think were. But the style is good one.
Eisner and his DOP Maxime Alexandre love the widescreen image and they capture those fine landscapes and horizons with a keen eye. Thankfully, the transfer respects this, and the resulting image is as three-dimensional as it is detailed. Shots down the main street, or of farm buildings nestling ominously to one side of the frame, or of the highway stretching away in front of the stricken refugees have terrific depth. The spatiality of characters simply standing in a room - the pivotal bedroom sequence in the Dutton's house, for example - is acute and fully dimensional. Overhead shots of people traipsing across the field have plenty of depth too.
Finally, I saw no evidence of artifacting, or smearing. Fast action is smooth and there was no trace of aliasing. Edges are tightly contained and don't exude any undue artificial sharpening. Overt noise reduction is not a problem and a film-like texture is maintained. The Crazies looks great on Blu-ray.
Well, I've got to say that I didn't expect the audio for this release to be anywhere near as good as it ultimately turned out. Anchor Bay's release includes two options - a DD 5.1 and a fantastic PCM 5.1 lossless alternative that not only brings the film to life, it knocks it out of the park.
Surround ambience is well designed with birdsong, crowd babble and vehicular rumbling well steered around us during key moments of activity. Dialogue is always clear and intelligible. Screaming, and we're looking at you, Radha Mitchell, is throaty and piercing. The sudden eruption of flames and the flaring sizzle of a bone-saw also find purchase all the way around the system. The film offers up an abundance of “stingers”, and these lurching jolts and clangs, bashes, crashes and snarls are treated with great respect by the audio - arriving most impressively with speed, depth and clarity from out of all the corners of a wide soundfield.
But God, this has some .LFE on it. The score throbs, the gunshots roar, the odd explosion sears the ear-drums, the buffeting cacophony of the car-wash sequence ignites the nerves with all-round severity, and as for the combine-harvester sequence ... well, you'd better warn everybody in your street before you spin this disc. This last example of gut-rumbling sub-activity comes fairly early on - and let me just say that salivating gore-hounds will be disappointed because the scene doesn't do what it teasingly promises, although in audio terms it is an out-and-out belter. The sound of the spinning blades chunners away in the distance at first, and then when we enter the barn, the noise becomes not only thunderous, but a physical presence in the room with you. Now, admittedly, I was initially watching the film late at night, and when this effect came blasting out of the speakers with such alarming volume and ferocious floor-dropping depth, I fought the urge to dial it down with completely selfish abandon. But the effect just seems to keep on going, climbing the walls and dislodging the slates, and drilling downwards to unbuckle the floorboards. It's terrific, folks, but you may well breathe a sigh of relief once it abates. A clang against cell-bars, the barrel-rolling of a crashed car, the impact of bodies against metal etc - the bass levels are grungy and exciting, through and thorugh.
Beyond this more emphatic display of aural aggression, bullets have a solid thump! to them, and shots are steered and positioned with clarity and realism. The chunk! of the pitchfork through a chest is so convincing that it is ghastly. All the action certainly makes use of the full soundscape, with positioning and directionality smooth and detailed. An army helicopter swooshes overhead, cars hurtle from speaker to speaker, or recede authentically into the distance. One of the infected charges into view, his snarling and growling forced out of the rear right speaker before he rushes past us.
Finally, Mark Isham's undulating musical textures and tones extend around the environment in thick swathes. This isn't a score that will offer much variety or instrumental nuance, but the intended mood is given the best possible showcase with this track.
The Crazies gets a very strong 9 out of 10 for its frenzied PCM audio.
At first glance, it seems that we have a fair amount of extras adorning this release, but the problem is that what isn't fluffy and promotional is either mundane or just plain obvious filler.
Things kick off with a solid, workmanlike commentary from Breck Eisner that delves into his reasons for tackling the story, the changes that he made to it and his belief in its continued relevance. He loves his cast and crew and the setting, and he delivers a reasonably fact-packed overview of the production, including the little homages paid to the original. It is no award-winner, but this chat-track should please the fans.
Behind the scenes is a ten-minute pat on the communal back from the director, producer and the four main cast members. Gee, we all loved working with each other. You've seen this type of EPK pap a million times before. This is one of the slickest efforts, folks.
Paranormal Pandemics is a nine-minute variation from the same set of on-set interviews as before, this time dealing with how FX-creator Rob Hall came up with the look for the infected. Basing it around Rabies and various other nasty diseases, the idea was that these unfortunates not resemble zombies, but rather go massively in the other direction and appear to be “hyper-alive”. Hmmm. This just means that they have exaggerated veins on show and bloodshot eyes and sores - which is a definite combination of zombies and the Dark Seekers from I Am Legend. Hey, I just noticed that this is DD 5.1! There's some wacky surround music going on. A nice touch in what is, otherwise, another pop-jazz promo-fest.
The George A. Romero Template is another ten-minute featurette that focusses on the love and adoration that people like Don (Phantasm) Coscarelli, Breck Eisner and a couple of horror website honchos have for the big grandfather of gore. They big up everything that the maverick filmmaker has done, but spend the most time on Night Of The Living and The Crazies - his angriest movies. Now, whilst I enjoyed this - I enjoy almost anything regarding Romero (except Survival Of The Dead, of course!) - but even this got tedious. Basically, if you are a fan of the zombie-lord, or even just a horror-fan, there will be nothing to learn here. About the best bits, apart from the copious clips from NOTLD are the goofy stills that we keep seeing of George on stage at a presentation ceremony.
Next up is eleven minutes in the company of Rob Hall and his FX-crew at Almost Human in Make-up Mastermind: Rob Hall In Action. Here, we see latex appliances, alginate mixtures, scars, gouges, wounds and disfigurements being created, moulded and applied to the poor hulk who plays the red-neck hunter who gets to beat-up on Timothy Olyphant. This is playful, fast but also quite informative.
We get to see two Motion Comics instalments of The Crazies, lasting for 14 mins and 12 mins respectively. The events detailed in these rather strange and not altogether worthwhile chapters are the initial plane crash that dumps Trixie in to the water supply, and various initial “mad” moments as well as some background with the red-neck hunters. With actors supplying the voices, the colourful animation lets the side down considerably by being no better than the type of thing you used to see in the 70's children's TV shows Captain Pugwash and Mary, Mungo and Midge. Really, this was a nice try to eke out the story ... but a dismal failure with regards to its execution.
Visual Effects in Motion is a scant 3-minute look at some of the more grand CG sequences in the film. We get to see before, middle-crafted and finalised shots for the finding of the downed plane in the swamp, and a fair few angles and elements that went into the big explosive finale.
The Storyboards we see in Building A Scene are a welcome addition, but the thing is they actually look terrible, if I'm honest. Rather hurried and filled with virtually un-readable notations, lovers of SB's may find these disappointing.
As well as a digital copy of the film over on a separate disc, we get a Stills Gallery, trailers for the film and some BD previews.
Breck Eisner pulls off a fine remake of Romero's embittered original thriller, ramping-up its horror credentials and creating a terrific atmosphere of unease and dread amid the endless fields of a once picturesque Georgia plain. I miss the white-smocked soldiers, but this take increases the carnage and instils a sense of savagery that goes beyond the warped H.G Lewis-style atrocities seen committed in the original. The cast perform admirably, the two leads managing to overcome the staple traits of their now stereotypical characters to enforce their own determined connection to one-another that feels quite reassuring in the face of such calamity. The film does lose the anger and the irony of the original - which is a shame - but it makes up for this with edge-of-the-seat thrills and spills.
A wonderfully immersive and bone-rattling uncompressed PCM track complements a fine and detailed image, ensuring the The Crazies looks and sounds very impressive. The extra features, although plentiful and covering most bases really didn't do a whole lot for me. The commentary and the make-up FX-featurette are the only things that didn't feel like superfluous filler or back-slapping promotional gunk. Nevertheless, Anchor Bay have put together a solid package that should please the fans.
If you fancy a strong chiller that promises to provide some bloodthirsty jolts, shocks and action, as well as anice opening act of creepy Body Snatchers-style mystery, then The Crazies is definitely for you. I'm usually a huge critic of horror film remakes, but I have to say that this one is worth your while. Slick, dangerous and well-produced, you'd be Crazy not to check this out.
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