Zombies Ate My News Judgment: NYT Critic on 'Plausible Premise' of Lefty Horror Flick

A familiar trope about horror movies is that the characters can only survive them by abstaining from drinking, drugs, and sex, leading some movie critics to half-facetiously moan about the genre's secret social conservatism. But what about horror movies with a thuddingly obvious left-wing message of environmental alarmism inserted into the script, as part of the studio's ideological vision?

In a Sunday Arts & Leisure article on the new movie "The Crazies," a remake of a low-budget George Romero zombie movie from the '70s, movie critic John Anderson equated left-wing environmentalist fearmongering with serving the "public good."

Turns out "The Crazies" is not just another zombie movie, but a consciousness-raising piece "about the issues of weapons security and the purity of water," as the headline indicated: "Homicidally Unhinged, But for a Cause." The text box: "'The Crazies' aims to scare moviegoers and elevates their social consciousness, too."

Anderson embraced the idea of slipping in left-wing messages into movies without fans noticing:

It may come as a shock, but the fanboys reveling in the eviscerations, explosions and Car Wash of Death scene contained in the director Breck Eisner's new take on "The Crazies" will also be contributing to socially progressive cinema. Perhaps even to the public good. With any luck, they won't notice.

A reimagining of the horrormeister George A. Romero's 1973 low-budget thriller "The Crazies" is about a spill of biological weaponry into a small town's water supply and the military response to what ensues: an epidemic of homicidal mania that turns a bucolic Iowa community into a virally induced abattoir.

Anderson actually found that a "plausible premise."

Like many of the better suspense thrillers, from "Psycho" to "Jaws" to "The Silence of the Lambs," the original "Crazies" was based on a plausible premise as well as one with an ecological subtext. Enter Participant Media.

Best known for its Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" (based on former Vice President Al Gore's anti-global-warming crusade), Participant has a mandate to produce profitable cinema with a social-action impulse. "The Crazies," as crazy as it might seem, fits right in.

Both the issues of weapons security and the purity of water fit the Participant mission set by its founder, Jeffrey Skoll, eBay's first president, who took money he made there and established a politically focused film company.

Studio president Ricky Strauss left no doubt that this movie about a lethal virus would come with a huge spoonful of leftist medicine.

And while the anti-biological-warfare message may not be everything, it certainly figures into Participant's calculations. Following the company's mandate, a social-action campaign will follow the release, involving more than 50 environmental groups and advocating for the passage of a federal chemical-security act.

"Everything with Participant has to be socially relevant," Mr. Strauss said, "right down to its DNA." Occasionally, however, "you want to hide the medicine in the popcorn."