A decent disaster film masquerading as a horror flick.
The town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, is exactly what you might imagine: small, picturesque, and the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else. When the reformed town drunk suddenly appears at a baseball game with a shotgun, Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) is forced to put him down but is confused as to why it happened at all. The sheriff’s wife, Judy, (Radha Mitchell), is the town’s doctor, who discovers that another of the townsfolk is acting oddly as well. Within twenty-four hours, it becomes apparent that Ogden Marsh is no longer safe, but is it already too late to save themselves?
The previews for this flick show a lot of things going on: half-crazed inflicted townsfolk, sinister-looking government workers, and local police helpless to do anything. The truth isn’t what caused it all, it’s what’s going to be done about it, and the only to escape is, well, to escape. It sounds simple enough, but these simple premises have been screwed up before due to a lack of believability and true-to-life characters. Fortunately, this isn’t the case; these guys do the smartest things they can and a few that might surprise you.
Although barely recognizable, this film is actually a remake of a 1973 George Romero film that (surprise!) wasn’t about zombies. The premise is the same, but the filmmakers of the new movie did successfully duplicate Romero’s focus. By keeping the cameras on the people directly affected by what’s going on rather than those who are doing it to them or the situation, the pressure helps keep the drama turned up in that “Well, what would YOU do?” kind of way that usually has audiences talking long after the credits have rolled.
There is a bit of Hitchcock here, in that “just because you know the cause doesn’t mean you can remove the symptom” kind of way. Like any good disaster film, the problems just keep coming until the heroes die or the special effects guys run out of money. Centering on the town sheriff and local doctor during a military-backed quarantine is also a great way to keep the audience informed as clues to how bad things are to keep the drama going. The only downside is inevitability, and while no one wants to believe that their struggle to survive is futile, it’s the struggle that defines humanity.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)