61 Days of Halloween: The Crazies (2010)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

First, a comment on The Crazies’ status as yet another film in a long line of remakes: after having recently seen George A. Romero’s original film The Crazies (1973) I no longer opposed this remake. Typically they should be looked at on a film-by-film basis and the original could be improved on, so this was fine in theory if not in fact.

This film starts very strongly with some very notable scoring and some chilling scenes starting with the inciting incident on the baseball field. Most of the action in the beginning flows through Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and it makes the mystery and horror very tight and close to the vest. The myopic view of the film allows for a very successful build in the horror as many of the characters we meet early fall prey to the disease.

The missteps begin kind of like an avalanche, one little rock rolls out of place and several other things follow. The first of these is that the jump to the assumption of contaminated drinking water is made very quickly, too quickly; it’s debated before they put a finger on anything else. Also, a touch at the beginning with the military satellite views and read outs in are a strength of the film and later they are a detriment because the military is too anonymous in this case.

Around the time when the city becomes occupied by the military, which sets up its perimeter to contain the infection, the film starts to suffer. Those we assume to be uninfected are trying to escape but they take unnecessary detours and the pace starts to suffer with many drawn out skirmishes with small victorious moments of brilliance interspersed among the trite stock episodes.

It is ultimately cannot avoid the trappings of a virus film, which is essentially a zombie movie with a different enemy. There are suspicions of who is infected, killing first and asking questions later, and unease in the survivors and aside from trying to offer unique kills nothing exciting is added to the equation. As is the case with all of these films nothing is ever over, which means we could get more Crazies which would be unfortunate indeed.

Even with the military moving in and posing a threat they are like rats in a maze just trying to avoid dead ends where they can be caught and killed, and there is no light shone upon the townspeople’s situation for far too long. While it can be to a film’s advantage to have the audience know things characters don’t, this takes far too long and slows the film down because the characters do need to find out in order to act at some point. So if we’re ahead of the tale and have to wait for the characters to catch up that’s not good.

There was, however, a goodly amount of intended humor and good acting, especially for the horror genre, in this film. It’s just a shame the material doesn’t quite live up to their capabilities and the early promise the film showed, it truly was a textbook first act but unfortunately for The Crazies films have three.

5/10

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11 Creepiest Kids in Supporting Roles

Okay, I know what you’re thinking? Where the hell does dude get eleven from, and no, I’m not setting up a Spinal Tap reference. What I am doing is living up to some of the precepts I put forth in this post. So, in this list there were quite a few possibilities that I decided didn’t make the top 10, but one really stood out and it featured in my favorite horror film of 2011.

It’s really no trick to make a kid scary in a film if that’s the premise of your plot such as in Village of the Damned. In fact, it’s old hat. I’m not knocking the scary kid as a horror film motif, far from it, but it is a much simpler task when that’s the main goal and your protagonist or antagonist, as the case may be, is a child.

This list seeks to acknowledge those who through performance, or circumstance, were the Creepiest Kids in Supporting Roles. Those who made a big impact with minimal screen time. Some of them don’t even feature in horror films and some are the beneficiaries of great filmmaking touches and perfectly suited for the effect the director sought.

11. Spencer List as Martin Bristol in Bereavement (2011)

As mentioned above, this was the selection that came closest to making the list before being dropped in consideration of the arbitrarily considered round number of 10. The bottom line is: if something is good enough to be included among the best it should be. This is why I decided on a top 25 film list for 2011. True, there’s a tragically informed backstory that tinges this performance, but what makes this silent turn so frightening is the way Spencer List interprets his character; distant but not disengaged. You always sense wheels are turning far behind a vacuous facade, that makes the conclusion both work and terribly chilling.

10. Mikael Rundquist as Boy in Dream in The Hour of the Wolf (1968)

Ingmar Bergman’s one surrealist horror tale gets one of its great jolts when its protagonist, played by Max Von Sydow, is attacked and bitten on a cliff over looking the sea by a would-be vampiric little boy. The scene is Rundquist’s one appearance in the film but is set up and executed to great effect, and is a standout in a film of many memorable images.
 
9. Jake Thomas as Martin in Artificial Intelligence: A.I.

OK, the next two selections prove out that there’s not only horror on this list. Many readers will already know my great appreciation of this film but it also presents us with a great creepy kid. Prior to Martin’s return home we feel sympathy for him and then we see him plot, much like a real kid would, to be rid of his unwanted artificial brother.
 
8. Eszter Gyalog as Lucifer in The Annunciation (1984)

Aside from intellectual stimulation this existential Hungarian film also brings you a throughly creepy rendition of Lucifer (on the right) as portrayed by a child, as are all the characters in this film. He has his falling, but he also tempts Adam and Eve, follows them through time and plays with the fate of mankind. If you want an effective devil you’re not necessarily seeking horns and sulfur, but cunning and persuasion, and that’s what you get here.
 
7. Fabiano Malantrucco as Giulio in The Last House in the Woods (2006)

First, if you miss old school giallo you need to get this Ghosthouse Underground selection. Second, Malantrucco in this film does the very difficult balancing act of being both convincingly innocent and evil and is one of the many strong points that this film has.
 
6. Will Sandin as Michael Myers (Age 6) in Halloween (1978)

This is one of the more shocking and resonant entries. Michael’s age when he initially perpetrated these heinous crimes is a secret the film holds on to and it is stunning to see it revealed. Not to detract from the brilliant work that Daeg Faerch did in the remake, but there is something to be said for both Michael’s past being more nebulous, and for him looking like an innocent. It is a brilliant touch by Carpenter.

5. Ari Lehman as Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th (1980)

Slots #6 and #5 are separated by a hair both in effectiveness and in length; they are very short appearances but memorable nonetheless. While the it’s the inferior film, the impact of Jason’s appearance, and the execution thereof, is greater hence it gets the edge. While creepy it is more emotionally rounded since Jason is not the antagonist of the first film so there is some sympathy there.

4. Kyra Schon as Karen Cooper in Night of the Living Dead (1968)

This has become perhaps the iconic image of the film The Night of the Living Dead such that it has been used as the cover image on DVD reissues and the like. Few note that this character is not ever-present in the film just very, very impactive.

3. Joe King as Billy in Creepshow (1983)

This was actually the performance that inspired this list. Joe King, son of Stephen and now best known by his nome de plume Joe Hill, stars in the frame that surrounds the tales in Creepshow (and adds another level to the film) and he is identifiably creepy which makes it more scary. It’s a tongue-in-cheek cautionary tale of what happens when you deprive a kid of his comics.
 
2. Lisa and Louise Burns as the Grady Twin Daughters in The Shining (1980)

OK, while this one may seem kind of obvious it needs to be said: Who knows what The Shining would’ve been if it had not been for the Grady twins being cast such as they are. They are our first and most frequent hosts to what secrets the Overlook holds and just downright creep-tastic.

1. Davide Marrotta as Patua, Bruckner Child in Phenomena (1985)

As if it wasn’t bad enough to make you see it once here you get a mirrored image. Well, such is life. Without giving too much away about in Dario Argento’s film Phenomena this kid and his character steal the show. He ends up being the best and most frightening thing about it. Granted most of that has to do with prosthetic work but that is the nature of the beast, for lack of a better term. The scenes with this character’s involvement elevate the film to a level it would’ve otherwise been unable to achieve. Not to mention that this is the most frightening mug I’ve ever beheld on screen.