With recent paranoia over SARS and the H1N1 flu, perhaps The Crazies doesn't seem so far-fetched after all. Based on George Romero's 1973 chiller, the Overture Films remake finds a small town plagued by violence and insanity after being contaminated by a mysterious disease. In the following exclusive interview with FEARnet, actress Radha Mitchell (of Pitch Black, Rogue, and Silent Hill fame) talks about taking on the role of the possibly infected Dr. Judy Dutton.
Looking at your body of work, you must receive quite a few of these genre scripts. What grabbed you about The Crazies?
There is something very timely about The Crazies. It just feels right now. As an actor, what drew me to it was the relationship throughout all the craziness going on. Within the story, there's this marriage that stays intact throughout it, so this weird domestic dynamic between a husband and wife fascinated me.
Were you aware of the original 1973 version and how does this one compare?
I watched it before we started shooting the film. It was interesting with Romero's politics. He often comments on what's going on in society and it's great to make horror intelligent that way. This movie has done the same thing. We've obviously made the film a bigger cinematic piece than maybe the original which had a lower budget. This movie has extended the concept in a really positive way.
Can you introduce us to your character and her connection to the town?
She is Dr. Judy Dutton, the resident doctor, and basically knows everybody because she treats them all for their various coughs or colds. She's married to the town sheriff. They are stable figures in the community and, as the movie begins, you begin to realize something weird is going on. The people coming into the doctor's office are acting a little odd. Then it becomes more and more apparent something scary is going on. It's a virus that is contagious and Judy is pregnant so she wants to get out. They have to abandon their friends who have gone nuts and are turning on them.
How does this disease actually affect the locals then?
There's a contaminant, which is a biological weapon, that has gotten into the water supply. It's basically a debacle that has gone wrong with the military. No one wants to talk about it and they are trying to cover up the whole situation. What happens is it gets into your blood and it manifests all this weird behavior that you may not ever express in real life. The school teacher starts killing all the kids and it's very unpredictable, since it's in the psychology of the person with the virus. There's that on top of the fact your body starts to decompose which is really quite disgusting.
The Crazies have a very distinct deranged look. What impressed you about the make-up and prosthetics?
When we were originally speaking with [director] Breck Eisner, I was hoping he would go for it with the effects and have really strong imagery. The acting is supposed to be quite subtle and realistic with bold effects which create tension. There was definitely a style they were trying to create and he did a great job.
Once it all hits the fan, how does Judy fare under pressure?
Well, Judy's a brave character and handles it better than I would have! At a certain part, there's four of them on the run. There's her assistant from the doctor's office coming with her and her husband's deputy. The question amongst them is do any of them have the virus and can they stay with each other? It really pushes the boundaries of their relationships with trust, accountability, and what's going on between them. Yet they are a group of people dependent on each other, have known each other for a very long time, and they are forced to watch everyone they know lose it.
There's plenty of buzz surrounding the car wash assault.
That was my favorite scene to shoot. There's already something creepy about car washes and in this case if you can imagine being in one that is dark with insane characters that are trying to kill you….. I think it's very visual and visceral. You're trapped in the car wash and it's chained below so you can't drive. The windows are being smashed in by these people trying to bite your head off. We're all soaking wet and there's these machines going. If you were a young person, this is one of those scenes you'd never forget and as an adult, it's very intense. We spent a long time getting it right with all the stuff going on. It's just a very strange and surrealistic situation.
This movie sounds more hardcore than some of your previous projects.
Well, I was on Silent Hill which was also visually pretty out there and went very far in that direction. But yeah, other movies I've done have been nothing like this. It's fun to mix it up and certainly one of my favorite scenes was fighting with one of the crazies. You have these very intense scenes and there's a certain irony embedded in the story, but overall it's quite serious.
You recently jumping from car to car in The Surrogates -- was The Crazies as physically demanding?
There were scenes where we were freezing cold or running around. Certainly in that scene it was fun because we got to fight crazies. There was physicality to it since we're on the run.
Plus, you must do some serious screaming.
I definitely get to scream. It's kind of cathartic at the end of the day. You feel light and floaty. I didn't expect that, but it's the effect of screaming all day.
What do you enjoy about constantly playing in these horror and sci fi universes?
It's hard to say. All the movies I've done have attracted an interesting bunch of people. In Rogue, there was Sam Worthington and Mia Wasikowska. For some reason, really interesting actors get involved in this cult cinema. Same with Silent Hill. Director Christophe Gans is really intelligent and loves horror. He was so passionate about the genre so there's just interesting characters that get attracted for various reasons. The fact that you can go into these hyper uber realities that you would never be able to explore in a more naturalistic piece is the fantasy of filmmaking.