Director Breck Eisner sat down to answer some questions about his latest film The Crazies, which tells the story of what happens to a small Iowa town that is suddenly turned to anarchy and death after a mysterious toxin contaminates the water supply.
We asked him about George Romero, the film’s political message, and why it isn’t a zombie flick.
Horror fans should note: if this film isn’t on your radar, the Q&A after the jump may convince you to head down to the theater for a viewing.
Geeks of Doom: Are you a fan of George Romero and how (if at all) did his previous films influence how you did The Crazies?
Breck Eisner: Of course I’m a big fan of Romero. As a kid I watched a lot of movies. before I knew anything about making movies I just knew that I liked watching his. The Crazies I had seen when a friend had brought over a beta max tape when I was 15 and we watched this bizarre movie (called The Crazies). When they approached me about remaking it that memory stuck out in my mind and I figured that was a good thing. Obviously I had to go back and re-watch it to see what was there… it was actually quite good but could stand for having a redo done.
GoD: Have you met Romero? What does he think about the remake?
BE: We screened him the movie after we finished post production. I called him the next day, which was very nerve racking call and asked him what he thought. It ended up being a really great call. He seemed very positive and has publicly talked about liking the movie. It was a real relief for me.
GoD: The original was said to have a political message underneath the surface of the story, do you agree with that and have you done the same in your version?
BE: The original had a political message on top of the story and having a political message is important. In the movie that we made I wanted to be a little more buried or subtle just given the broader audience we were aiming for and the market of today. The movie certainly has a political message, very similar but different for the times than the message that Romero was pushing. And we are definitely a socially relevant movie I hope.
The political message is there but it’s subtle and it’s background compared to the story and characters, the action and horror, the tension and scope of the movie, which is ultimately a horror thrill ride that gets going early and doesn’t let up. That more than anything, I want the audience to feel scared and tense and excited and anxious in watching this movie.
GoD: Our staff writer Vactor made a comment that The Crazies looked better than the $20 million budget would lead you to believe. If you had twice the resources to play with, would you have done anything differently?
BE: Yeah definitely. The thing that we were always fighting was time. That was our biggest enemy. Every set piece that was shot I had to cut short from what the [story] boards were. People like the set piece and they worked well but I think they would have worked better if I had been able to shoot everything I wanted. That being said, I think the limitations of budget can help you. There’s a scene with a knife in a guy’s hand and the set piece completely changed because we didn’t have time to shoot what was boarded, drawn, and written. It seems better because of the limitations I think. So it’s a careful balance. I wouldn’t have wanted a bigger budget for this movie — it doesn’t want to be a big budget movie. It wants to be a small budget, subversive, out of left field film but when I was on on the floor shooting the movie I could have used five more extra days. (Time is money)
GoD: What would you say to people who would label this a Zombie movie?
BE: You hear it’s a George Romero movie and that it’s infected people acting strange. You look at the commercials it’s a 15- to 30-second compilation of fast action, so they say “yeah it’s a zombie movie” and certainly there are elements of the zombie genre if you made it really wide swath. But it’s not a zombie movie. I mean people like us who know the genre, know their zombies. These people are not undead, they’re not acting as a collective whole, not trying to eat brains or trying to infect everyone else. [The Crazies] is definitely about individuals who get infected and it releases this latent anxiety/anger… deep seeded personalities comes out when they’re infected with this virus. They don’t lose their personalities and persona completely. It just lets loose this monster within and it does it differently with each person. That’s what makes it different from a zombie movie.
There is one person in the movie who just gets on a little girl’s bicycle — rides around in the street and sings a hymn [and also] a woman just looking to see if somebody called her back. Obviously that’s not great drama to the majority of people, it releases this animalistic rage within. Sometimes its directed specifically towards one person because they’re settling a vendetta or a deep anger inside. Sometimes it’s just about random violence.