Just five short years after Romero’s Night of the Living Dead changed the face of horror everywhere, the world received The Crazies. After a plane carrying biological weapons crashes and seeps into the water system, residents of a small Pennsylvania town fall victim to a virus that causes madness and death. As the government attempts to quarantine the town and dispose of those who are infected, a group of civilians try to cross the town border and escape the mess. Told with Romero’s signature attention to detail and not-so-subtle political overtures, The Crazies is a compelling plot with interesting characters. But even an eloquent depiction of madness and a couple of graphic deaths can’t sell this film as a terrifying horror. It’s a solid movie, but it’s not at all scary and can’t possibly measure up against others in the genre.
Romero is an amazing director/writer/producer/horror god, don’t get me wrong. Night of the Living Dead was both an amazing film and terrifying. Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead were less scary, though, and more politically charged. The Crazies seems to be the film that started him on that direction. Not lost on the viewer are the statements the film makes about the government’s simultaneous lack of and involvement in this epidemic. Their use of brutal force in an effort to cover up their mistake resonates strongly throughout the film. I love that Romero’s horrors aim for a bigger message; this is what separates him from pretty much every other horror director. I only wish he’d combine that greater good with more scares. But perhaps to Romero the most terrifying and realistic horror is a government failing its people.
The Crazies does excel in depicting madness with a beauty and eloquence I’ve never seen before. The movie makes madness seem so gentle and happy, a lovely foil to the horrors happening around those going mad. One scene in particular stands out - a mad girl sweeps a field of dead bodies with a broom, like she’s just sweeping the kitchen floor. And even though there weren’t many memorable death sequences, there’s one I’ll never forget. An infected grandmother happily rocking in a chair while knitting puts those needles to good use when the government finds her. The madness in this movie is definitely unsettling because it feels so real. There’s no crazy special effects or makeup in this movie, it’s just honest-to-goodness people starting to act a little delirious and giddy. And then they die. Or kill others. You know, the usual.
In the end, I found this movie much more engaging than Day of the Dead or Dawn of the Dead, but I still wished it was as scary as Night of the Living Dead. I think Romero’s style and artistry is unparalleled in horror and had this film boasted a few more solid scares, it would have earned a much higher score. Do take note, horror fans, as the characters in this film contract the disease from a virus without dying and coming back to life, these ARE NOT zombies. Therefore, the virus population on the island is getting a new set of villains. Happy, mad people… just what they needed.
If you liked The Crazies, you might also like Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead.