It’s a Mad, Mad World - "The Crazies" Review
Five years after crafting his absolute classic Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero seemed adamant in evading a possible sequel to his undead universe.
With The Crazies, however, he was able to attack the same themes with an almost identical structure, without needing to resort to green paint and animal viscera. The fact that this story deals with human beings and not monsters makes his social commentary even clearer and stronger.
The Crazies tells the story of the small town of Evans City in Pennsylvania, where different incidents have begun to happen in which completely normal people begin to lose their minds, to the point of harming and even killing the people around them.
David (Will McMillan) and Judy (Lane Carroll) have to interrupt a romantic moment to attend the town emergencies. A family home has been consumed in flames, leaving several people wounded and dead. Since David is a firefighter and Judy is a nurse, both are required immediately.
The arrival of a heavily armed military brigade with NBC suits and gas masks makes it clear that the problem is serious. An Army plane that contained an experimental virus called "Trixie" crashed near the town, infecting the water supply. Designed to be a bioweapon, "Trixie" only has two outcomes: a slow and painful death or an irremediable hostile "craziness".
Yes, there is no greater explanation or logic about what "craziness" means and how scientifically the symptoms of this instability are identical among the infected, but by that time our disbelief is effectively suspended. We don't really want technicalities.
The Crazies also shows the other side of the crisis: those that provoked it and now have the duty to contain and eradicate the epidemic. There are soldiers who don't know how to deal with civilians, military commanders forcibly imposing over mayors and local commissaries and scientists who have to deal with the ego and the paralyzing ignorance of their superiors.
And this is when The Crazies becomes interesting, because the truth is that practically nobody in this story behaves as the situation commands. Chaos, paranoia, and fear engulf any hint of common sense and empathy, causing a chain of unfortunate and chaotic events full of misinformation, mistrust, and misjudgment.
Those who should have control of the situation are the first to stir up the chaos due to their incompetence. Misapplied security mechanisms, unnecessary, ineffective and disruptive bureaucracy and badly managed power quotas end up creating a lethal cocktail.
And that is fully the intention of this movie: to blur the border between those who are healthy and those who are mad.
Who are the crazies? At first, there is no doubt that the infected are the ones concretely crazy, acting violently, with erratic and sometimes even absurdly hilarious behavior. But after seeing the chaotic, selfish and clumsy communications between those who are supposedly in full use of their faculties, there's doubt. In the end, the level of bloodshed and lives lost is quickened with the arrival of the supposed "control".
And thanks to that, Romero, as always, goes a step further. He writes and directs in such a way that it's very difficult for the audience to empathize with the military and bureaucrats. The very fact of always showing them with their hazmat suits and gas masks dehumanizes them completely and leaves them well established as the villains of the story. The audience cheers for the civilians who try to escape the quarantine although it's evidently the worst decision for humankind.
That irrationality on the viewer, rooting for characters almost by inertia (manipulated, logically, by an artist behind the camera) is a fantastic meta-commentary about that generic "craziness" to which Romero refers. There is not really a logical reason to raise chaos and break the perimeters that contain the epidemic, but we still want Judy, David, and Clank to escape.
What's Your Rating For Romero's The Crazies?
One of the weak points of this movie is its duration. While the pace never loosens and our interest remains stable for almost the whole story, there's a feeling that the issue gets old towards the end and could have benefited from 20 minutes less.
However, The Crazies is still a recommended experience because it's one of the projects in which George A. Romero had a more experimental direction. At times, almost flirting with the beautiful Giallo aesthetic, Romero demonstrates an interesting dedication to embellish and enhance the message of his shots.
In a fringe zone between the zombie, the Giallo, and the apocalyptic drama, The Crazies is undoubtedly a weird, unique film. There is also a 2010 remake starring Timothy Olyphant. It has higher production quality, but it's basically more or less the same.
Title: The Crazies
Release Year: 1973
Director(s): George A. Romero
Actors: Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, Harold Wayne Jones, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards