Director – George A. Romero
Cast – Will MacMillan, Lane Carroll, Harold Wayne Jones, Lloyd Hollar, Lynn Lowry, Richard Liberty, Richard France, Harry Spillman, Will Disney, Edith Bell
Release Year – 1973
Reviewed by John of the Dead
After the infamous Night of the Living Dead and before the epic Dawn of the Dead, George A. Romero gave us one of his lesser known flicks, The Crazies. Obviously overshadowed because it failed to be one of Romero’s “Dead” films, this film still managed to be a great watch that bleeds “George A. Romero social commentary” all over it. While zombie films had been done before, this film gave us the first major dose of “infected” horror in cinema lore(1970‘s I Drink Your Blood was technically first, but not a “major“ dose like this film). An interesting film with a cool plot that gives an interesting element to the “blame the military” use in government cover-up horror, this is one flick that I wish would receive the attention it deserves.
This flick takes place in a small Pennsylvania town. Our lead, David(Will Macmillan), is a volunteer firefighter who has been called to the scene of a local home engulfed in flames. Authorities say the father killed his wife and then lit the home on fire with his children inside. What seems like an isolated incident becomes awry when jeeps full of military personnel drive into town. A quarantine has been put into place, and nobody is allowed to leave the town. Soldiers wearing protective suits and gas masks break into people’s homes, confiscating weapons and rounding up the townsfolk. A plane carrying a highly toxic biological weapon has crashed in the town’s lake, contaminating the drinking water, and turning those without immunity to the virus into “crazies”. David and his wife Judy manage to escape military custody, and must fight their way through numerous soldiers to make it out past the barricade. However they must also do battle with the survivors around them as the survivors slowly succumb to the disease. It is now every person for themselves in this battle between innocent townsfolk suffering at the hands of their very own government.
I really enjoyed this flick, especially because it shows that Romero can still make a great non-zombie film. The confusion and chaos seen throughout this film feels real, and although there are no real scares in this flick, the scenario itself is scary enough. Being placed in a true “nowhere to run” scenario is frightening, especially not knowing which of your loved ones/friends will turn on you once the virus kicks into their system. This is only worsened when you are unarmed and facing a heavily armed military force with orders to kill all who do not obey. Over a decade before Romero’s Day of the Dead debuted, he already took a shot at military leaders with this film. It was awesome to watch his social statements as the close-minded military leaders focused on ill-mannered and naïve techniques to deal with the virus, instead of listening to the very scientists they hired to create the virus. Their bone-headed moves led to many costly mistakes, and it was awesome to see it go down. I don’t hate the military, but it is nice to see the cushy “higher-ups” suffer from ill-conceived decisions they believed they had the knowledge to make. I personally enjoyed that Romero did not attack the individual soldiers in this film, but the military leaders that view them as expendable and use them as pawns to do their very own dirty work. Brilliantly done. I especially loved that the civilians would fight back against the military, showing that armed citizens would be able to defend themselves against our version of the “Gestapo” should rule-of-law vanish as it did in this film. Most importantly, Romero’s portrayal of the townsfolk and the military lead you to question who “The Crazies” really are…brilliant.
The writing and direction are well done, and as you can tell are executed in classic Romero fashion. There are no intense gore scenes in this flick, and I had no problem with that because this was never meant to be a gory film. I found it interesting that these “infected” were not the usual bloodthirsty infected we get in films nowadays, but were merely just crazy and only killed randomly. The “crazies” we get in the 2010 remake of this film, which you can read my review on here, were bloodthirsty killers that killed at any possible opportunity. Both are nice, but I found this film to be a bit more refreshing given it gave me something different from the usual “infected” hijinks. Romero’s score is another one that stood out to me. We don’t get the usual dreadful sounding synthesizer orchestration, but instead nothing but drill-type military tracks. Talk about setting the proper mood, right?
There were no big problems that I found in this film, although it does come off as a bit cheezy and slightly silly at times. Not purposely done I would say, just a byproduct of low-budget filmmaking and trying to do a lot with very little.
Overall, this is a positive watch that gives an interesting take to the “infect” horror sub-genre, and very well be the very first “infected” film to come about. I recommend this to all fans of the sub-genre and those who love Romero’s work. It isn’t his best work, but it is enough to keep fans fulfilled knowing that he can make a cool non-zombie films if he so chooses to.