Breck Eisner's The Crazies debuts this week, and while the movie shares many similarities with the 1973 original (written and directed by George Romero), Eisner told FEARnet that his version will be a "reinvention."
I really enjoyed the original movie and felt it was ripe for a reinvention. I liked the script, although I had a somewhat divergent take on it, so I hired another writer, Ray Wright [(Pulse)], to do a rewrite. The first draft followed the structure of the original film a little more closely. The original and the first draft both had this bifurcated view: the movie was half from the point of view of the military and half from the point of view of the townspeople. I felt that by putting any of the movie in the military's point of view, it turned the movie more towards action and less towards horror. I worked with the writers and we excised the military's point of view and focused on the point of view of the hero and the townsfolk. I think it makes the movie scarier, and makes it a darker, more mysterious journey.
Eisner says that the producers of the movie "optioned the story directly from Romero," which initially attracted him to the project. By the time he started work, however, Romero was gone.
His involvement was primarily at the beginning, before I was there. Making the deal, coming up with the basic concept, stuff like that. Once I was there, his view was that I should make the movie and do my own thing. When it was done, we set up a screening and showed him the movie. I called him up after, and he had positive things to say about the movie — he was quite excited about it. That was a nerve-wracking call for me, though! As I dialed the number, I kept thinking to myself, "Do I call him Mr. Romero? George? What do I say?"
Besides budget ("Ours was a modest budget by Hollywood standards, but still far more than Romero had for the original," says Eisner), there will also be other differences between Eisner's and Romero's versions.
It's definitely not a zombie film. That's one of the things I like about it. Obviously, when you say "Romero," you associate his name with zombies. When you see the TV ads, it feels like a zombie movie, if only due to the pure power of montage. But zombies are — in theory — undead human beings who are decaying. They all have a collective conscious. They all want to eat brains or infect, and they all act as one. The concept of the infected in The Crazies is that they all maintain some sense of their deep psyche. They all act differently, and they may act out based on their own deep-seated desires. That is what keeps it distinctly different from zombies.
There was a sort of "shuffling" quality to The Crazies in the original. It feels a little dated today, but it didn't in 1973. The challenge of watching a horror movie made in the 1970s or something is you have to try to watch it with the eyes of the audience of the day. What really emboldened my thought on remaking The Crazies — the audience is totally different today. It's a movie that still exists under the shadow of war — Vietnam for the original, Iraq for the current audience. You have to make a movie that is true to the original but also true to the audience.