Our heads are still spinning after the theme-park extravaganza that Overture threw in Los Angeles on Wednesday night for its release of the horror film "The Crazies."
Most premieres trot out a few stars, serve some canapes and call it a day. For its Breck Eisner-directed remake of the 1973 George Romero horror staple, Overture turned a parking lot into a quarantine area, hired dozens of extras to play soldiers and law enforcement officials, tricked out a theater with the small-town trappings from the film, handed out medical wristbands instead of tickets and basically scared the bejesus out of the fans it invited to the event. (All of this went down in and around the Vista Theatre in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles.)
We couldn't decide whether it was thrilling or a little scary to find people in sheriff garb and army fatigues barking orders where to drive, how to enter a theater and where to stand (let alone hear about one of the attendees getting roughed up by said soldiers, an attendee who was a hired actor -- we think).
But publicists' cheerful promise that "there will be intimidation and fear tactics!" was certainly kept, and then some. Although we missed the exact moment of frog-marching and pre-screening harassment (designed not for revenge on recalcitrant media but to mirror the way residents of the film's small town are treated), reports from said publicists and the still delighted/stricken looks on the faces of the assembled told us all we needed to know.
We're not quite sure whether a movie in which a tap-water contamination results in quarantines, zombie-like transformations and gruesome murders is exactly the film we wanted reenacted. Couldn't scenes from the film have been re-created at the "Valentine's Day" premiere, and with the Jessica Alba and Jessica Biel scenes? But you have to give Overture points for the conviction with which it pulled off the enterprise. The fan-driven event premiere has gone the way of the spotted owl and the Canadian gold medal these last few years, as studios either spend on high-end accouterments or don't spend at all. But Overture, rumors of financial issues and all, threw itself full on into the event.
We only wish Eisner's movie, which makes a few noble efforts to go beyond the easy camp horror to themes of fear and water politics but ultimately doesn't add up to much, showcased similar energy in its acting and writing.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: "The Crazies." Credit: Overture Films