In a genre awash with mindlessly gory fodder, The Crazies is an imaginative exception to conventional horror trends. Reviving Romeroís 1972 script with a chilling measure of 21st century paranoia, the remake witnesses a deadly virus wreak havoc on small-town America. While Faye Coulman tried to figure out a diagnosis, British actor Joe Anderson discussed his trigger-happy role as Deputy
Hi Joe, how are you?
Iím in sunny Newcastle-Upon-Tyne at the moment. Itís rather cold and grey.
How are you feeling about the UK release of The Crazies?
Iím feeling fairly good about it, though I havenít seen a full cut of the movie yet, so Iím not too sure what to expect. But Iím looking forward to seeing it in its entirety.
What attracted you to the script in the first instance?
I liked that fact that it wasnít a typical horror movie, and that it was more of an elevated genre film. Weíre more interested in the characters than putting knives in peopleís chests or cutting their eyeballs out with a blowtorch or whatever. There are no girls running around in their underwear for the sake of it. I like that integrity as well as the fact that it was a film that really spawned a genre, and I wanted to see that with a 21st century aesthetic and take on it. I also liked the arc of the characters and that my character Russell starts off as a young, do-gooder deputy. Itís interesting to play a character that evolves as opposed to a one-note role.
In light of current paranoia surrounding biochemical warfare, epidemics and suchlike, do you feel that the movie is particularly relevant to 2010 audiences?
Well, I donít know. There was paranoia in the Second World War, there was paranoia in the Cold War and in Vietnam with Communism. Paranoia is the tool that gets people moving, and I think that in the current climate weíre constantly being told terror, terror, terrorists. But no one really knows what a terrorist looks like or even exactly what this thing is. Itís not like you can just lock him up and put him in a prison, and I think details are kept intentionally sketchy to keep people on edge. Of course, the movie will hit home on certain levels and make people think. Also, what with chemical warfare and what have you, I think that these are issues that need to be dispatched, so to speak. How many vehicles are carrying deadly chemicals right now on the streets? If one of those spills, what is the method of clean up? The movie walks a fairly close line in terms of how this would be dealt with.
"Paranoia is the tool that gets people moving".
Do you think the fact that the story is hinged on reality makes it more terrifying than most horror movies?
I think that there are two things we were trying to get away from. Number one, this is not a global apocalypse. This is not the end of the world, but at the same time one town is being sacrificed for the sake of a country. Personally, I think that is more terrifying than the apocalypse.
Number two, this is not a zombie movie. These guys are not lumbering around, and you canít easily run away from them or smack them in the mouth. Plus, the infection brings out a demon thatís particular to the individual in question. The Crazies have a very colourful range because theyíre not just one-note characters. Theyíre very different.
I understand that George A.
Romero was Executive Producer of the movie. What was it like working alongside him?
I didnít actually work with George, and unfortunately never got a chance to meet him. I think he may have come down to the set one day, but I never got to discuss anything with him. When youíre working on a project like this, you have to respect the original. Itís his work, so to speak, and when itís time to act and direct, itís best to stay with the world thatís already on the page. Though equally, it is its own being as a movie.
Your character Russell Clank gets a tad trigger-happy during the film. Did you find it difficult to get into a hysterical mindset?
Not really. We all go totally mental at one point and everyone has their freak out moment. When I was preparing for the role of Russell, I kept in mind that in Iowa, where the film is set, you probably have only a certain number of lifestyle choices. You can either be a farmer, or a sort of pillar of the community. So, I think that Russell is just trying to get along in life and do the right thing. In that part of the world, thereís a great pride in the military and in fighting for your country. So, thereís a darker side to Russell. The whole military aspect of the US went hand in hand with Russellís character, so heís not just going nuts and killing people. Thereís a reason for it and I think itís like, get the job done. Itís very much the American way.
Almost like Russellís darker side is something thatís been buried in his subconscious all along?
Yes. We were trying desperately to not make these people sort of mindless zombies that just shuffle along and chase after you. The disease itself is also sort of like rabies and is based on real stuff. A lot of research went into that. They wanted to bring out the craziness of each individual, so I think that was a wise move because it takes things beyond the one-note killer formula. It could be the mother, the brother or the guy next door and everyone is different, so itís difficult to figure out if theyíre nuts or not at first.
"Thereís a darker side to Russell".
Do you think itís more disturbing to witness a tight-knit community being ripped apart, as opposed to a big, anonymous city?
Absolutely. Weíve invested in these people, in the community and in the town. So people will feel more of a connection with these characters than those in other horror movies.
Would you agree that the psychological aspect of this movie is more disturbing than the gore factor?
Yeah, there is a bit of blood and guts, but itís not gratuitous and itís not for the sake of seeing it. There are some films where the protagonist walks in and immediately starts sticking drills into people. However, in The Crazies, youíre actually invested in the characters. And, though the film is set in Iowa, you donít need to be from that part of the world to understand that sense of community. So when it does hit the fan, itís slightly more disturbing to see the school Principal, whom youíve met and probably spoken to, go absolutely insane.
To your mind, what was the most disturbing scene in the movie?
The most disturbing scene is when David, Judy and myself get taken to the school, which has now been turned into a unit to segregate the sick from the healthy. That sort of thing is going on in this world as we speak, and the realisation of that fact really hit home for me.
How did the challenges of The Crazies compare with those of previous horror roles?
I was practically an extra in Creep. It was one of the first things I did when I came out of drama school and basically had to just walk past the camera. I was by no means a character. Though compared to The Ruins, which was a DreamWorks horror movie that I did, my character breaks his back so it was a challenge to figure out how to act while lying motionless for half the movie. The Crazies was much more physical and challenging in terms of the way I approached the character. I needed to be dark, yet subtle and not too heavy-handed about things. The biggest challenge was to get the right range and tone for Russell.
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Joe.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."