Crazies Director: Turning Suburbia Upside Down, Then Torching the Corpse

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We’ve seen The Crazies. And yep, they’re pretty damn crazy. (Watch for our review Thursday)

Not just the citizens of the remote hamlet of Ogden Marsh, but also the military that descends on the village in short order, bestowed with highly unusual rules of engagement.

Adapted from a 1973 film by George A. Romero, the modern update is a haunting depiction of outright anarchy and a survivalist’s mentality. And in restricting the viewer’s point of view, we are put into the shoes of the citizens roaming these desolate streets, tormented and terrified by a daily life turned upside down. Director Breck Eisner – the man behind the now-in-development Flash Gordon project – gave us a ring late Monday night, to talk Romero, horror and what it’s like to mold a remake that turns out to be better than the original:

I saw this movie with Peter, who wasn’t totally sold on the concept, but I think I can honestly say that we were both pretty gripped by the spectacle…

It’s one of those movies where people don’t know what to expect from it. It has such a weird title, it’s a remake, it’s this horror film where you’re not quite sure going in what the subject is. It’s kind of an enigma, and I think it works better that way.

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I actually thought that was one of the best things about it – that you really limited our perspective, and we didn’t know what to expect at all. Romero gave two sides of a story in his film, the population of the town and then the military, but you keep blinders on us throughout your film.

I came in after a first draft, which had a much more bifurcated point of view. And the main thing I wanted to do with another draft is to explore what happens to the town’s point of when things fall apart. I also wanted to spend more time with the characters, which is something you can’t do often in horror movies. Time is really precious, to keep things moving, and you don’t have all that much time to invest in these people’s lives. So by focusing less on the military, it also gave us time to really spend with, and care about, the characters.

As for the way that affects the tension and suspense, I just started thinking it through: If there was a spill, would I know when it first happened, what the government’s intentions were? I thought that made the movie more realistic if you are a bit disoriented, not know what’s happening or why it’s happening. And it’s that uncertainty that definitely provides a certain sense of horror.

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Where do you even begin, in planning a production like this? Are there horror movies you draw from?

I’m really not that strategic about things. I just think back to the movies that I loved – things like The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Jaws, all I can do as director is make the movie that I want to see.

How about more recent horror films – some of the more graphic ones? You have graphic moments in The Crazies, but you seem a little more careful than other filmmakers in spacing things out, so that it’s not all overwhelming…

I appreciate some of those movies if they’re well-made and thoughtfully-made; if it’s not more about selling tickets than making a movie. There are truly horrific movies designed with a social commentary in mind, and intending to elicit a response. That said, torture porn is not really my cup of tea, there are certain movies like the remake of The Hills Have Eyes or High Tension that are hard to watch, but made deliberately so by such strong directors.

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