The Government is Scarier than Zombies (Review of “The Crazies” [1973 version])

Let me start this off by saying I love George A. Romero…love him.  Is he ridiculously over the top?  Yes.  Should someone perhaps print out a definition of the word “subtlety” and tape it over his desk? Probably.  Can anyone really be that insanely explicit and ham handed and still make me love every minute of it? Not really.  He’s just awesome to me.  Night of the Living Dead is brilliant and classic (if anyone else, like me, had the misfortune of one time grabbing a copy where he did those bizarro added scenes years later, please ignore those scenes and find yourself a copy of the *actual* original movie).  Dawn of the Dead is hysterical and creepy and delicious.  Oft overlooked, and even by me in this instance, is 1973’s The Crazies, which, contrary to popular belief, is NOT a zombie film.

Interestingly enough, this hairdo *isn't* due to him going crazy

That’s right, folks; Romero didn’t make only zombie films.  And that new movie in the theatre is another remake and it’s not about zombies, in either the Romero-esque sense of the walking undead or the Haitian legend sense of the mind-controlled slaves (note: I did see the remake…that review will come later).  The Crazies is about people who are, surprise surprise, going crazy from a chemical warfare agent that has leaked into the population.  Let me reiterate – NOT ZOMBIES – these folks are alive and then when they cease to be alive, they stay not alive.

Was this Romero’s best work?  Nah, not by a long shot.  It got a bit over the top and overstated, even for Romero.  At times, the long ventures we spent with the military got a bit monotonous and, at times, downright silly (although, there was a bad-horror-lovin’ part of me that was thrilled by the random insertion of Dr. Strangelove-esque stock footage of nuclear weapons and people yelling in a war room).

I also wished there was a bit more examination of what was going on with this actual virus/weapon that was so terrifying and awful.  Besides one guy burning down his house, which was admittedly unnerving, and another guy going all Cheney gun-happy (which, honestly, could’ve just been how the character was normally by the way he was portrayed), there wasn’t much in terms of crazy people straight-up scares.  In terms of other crazy examples, surprisingly, Romero didn’t just have people going psycho murderer crazy – he had a nice array of people going different, and equally upsetting, kinds of nuts.  The girl who’s toted around the entire time giggling and acting, basically, like she’s stoned out of  her ever-loving mind was in a lot of ways as creepy as the people who were getting all homicidal.  Given how the few bits of crazy we got were effective, I would have liked to see more of how the infection reacted differently in different people…and just…more of the crazies themselves.

Talk about going postal! (give me a break, my mind's on weekend time already :P)

On the other hand, I liked, really liked, that it was mostly about how terrifying the government is.  Sure, people going crazy are scary, but the story behind the government accidentally poisoning a whole town with a terrifying biological weapon and deciding that just mass murdering thousands of Americans is the only solution is great to me.  And, even with being sometimes *too* over the top, I liked how Romero played it.  Shots like the above one, where a guy in a mask and a gun stands in front of a government building, innocuous as it may seem in daily life, are pure gold to me.

It's like Duck Hunt, except without the cheeky dog...oh, and with killing people

Not to mention the random killings – while I don’t actually believe that everyone in the US military would be ok with just murdering their compatriots, there’s something deeply unsettling about unnamed, unseen, and largely voiceless militia characters shooting up a town.  The mask thing may be getting old, but not seeing people’s faces, thus making them mindless drones, also goes a long way in the creep-out factor.

I often mistake scientists for maniacs too...it's nothing to be ashamed of

I also loved how the government seemed to not care at all about actually curing the people – they send one guy to look into a cure for the virus, don’t get him any equipment except some high school microscopes, and basically hinder him at every turn.  In the meantime, el genius scientist somehow finds a cure with the craptastic high school equipment, only to be mistaken for a “crazy” and pushed into the cattle call of infection…and thus, presumably killed/  So the only hope in the film is destroyed because the government wouldn’t let him make a phone call without jumping through about fifty hoops – fantastic. The fact that the scientist is never brought up again, like everyone else totally forgot about the option of finding a cure, is the sort of creeping horror that I love – to me, that was the delicious moment of realization that this “organized” martial law is actually just as chaotic and insane as the people losing their marbles.

Now, I realize (especially given that the person I watched the film with had a completely different reaction than me) that Romero’s overblown style is not for everyone.  But, if you’re ok with things being blatant to the point of ridiculous and you like government-is-evil-and-horrifying type films, this is really a very good film and a lot of fun.  If you plan on seeing the new Crazies, I very strongly recommend it as well.  Personally, I liked Romero’s better – but the two are just really interesting to see side by side.  I kind of wish I could take the two films and squish them together, because they seem to be lacking in completely opposite elements.

But more on that in the next review 🙂

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One Response to “The Government is Scarier than Zombies (Review of “The Crazies” [1973 version])”

  1. […] The Mistress of Horror Horror…Reviewed, Spoiled, Snarked « The Government is Scarier than Zombies (Review of “The Crazies” [1973 version]) […]

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