‘The Crazies’ is yet another film that has recently been rebooted with the loving care with which Hollywood treats all classics, so it’s only fair to re-examine the original. We join the scene as the small, isolated community of Evan’s City is suddenly the focus of a massive military-controlled quarantine, and no one will say why. The local nurse and firemen are dragged into the centre of the action but while they struggle to survive, the government has already condemned them: “Trixie” is too experimental a virus, and a plane is lined up to for a nuclear strike.
As with any Romero production, the focus is not necessarily on a believable series of events, but on the way society would react to an unknown biological threat. Tension runs high as the army mercilessly round up the citizens, and the town’s doctor and priest argue desperately for communication channels to open.
A claustrophobic atmosphere reigns as any solution begins to appear hopeless and clueless soldiers struggle to control a frightened population. The military (wearing white overalls and gasmasks) are as threatening as the slowly disintegrating sanity of the populace. Soon chaos reigns and it’s every man for himself. The scene in which the faceless soldiers evacuate family after family from their homes is particularly poignant. No one shows signs of infection at first, but with martial law declared and everyone herded into the local high school hall, disaster can be the only result.
The sheer amount of dialogue can seem a bit hackneyed compared to more modern zombie, horror and action films in general. There is also a lens on the military, as opposed to the melee unfolding in the town. However, we soon discover that the soldiers are not immune either, and simply acting under orders will not protect them. It becomes unclear whether people’s brutality is that of natural fear or the sickness itself. These are no mere zombies: they are people reduced to pure Id, and as the violence increases you wonder who is worse, the infected locals or the ruthless army.
This film has been somewhat lost to history because it isn’t one of Romero’s best, and stands alone as opposed to ‘…The Dead’ franchise, which has been very much kept alive (so to speak). The use of music also dates it, and the implausible gunfight with a helicopter is, well, implausible.
Sadly you can see the ending coming from very early on in the plot, and the endless shootouts and military debates aren’t half as fun as zombie guts flying everywhere – you feel a bit bad for the army, the way they get mercilessly picked off by local gunslingers.
‘The Crazies’ is fun, but there is not as much to relish as in the majority of Romero’s work, so it can all fall a bit flat.
Review by Nicole Holgate
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