(1973) dir. George A. Romero
For Halloween, I always like to watch at least one horror film. It’s hardly a rigorous ritual, but I tried to stock myself up with a couple alternatives. I ended up watching The Changeling on Halloween and so I had George A. Romero’s The Crazies to watch a little later the next week.
For those of you that don’t know, I think that Romero is one of the great auteurs of American cinema. While that is not a reach by any means for many fans of cult cinema (in fact maybe he’s a little too mainstream for some of them), it may be a little surprising to others. I haven’t seen all of his films. This one I had never seen before, for example. But after having viewed his zombie trilogy and his vampire film Martin (1978), I was convinced that he’s one of my personal favorite directors.
The Crazies sounded quite relevant as well. A bio-chemical leak in a small town infects people with a virus that drives them insane and the world becomes apocalyptically violent as a result. Not actually a whole lot unlike Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, which I saw in the theater this year. And also, this theme seems not unlike the mysterious origins of the zombie trilogy narratives, sometimes explicit, sometimes covert paranoia of the government and society. The social criticism is foregrounded significantly.
The Crazies wasn’t among Romero’s masterworks, though I would definitely include it as interesting from an auteur perspective for reasons mentioned above. It’s an earnest film, with some cheap exploitation violence and some excellent low budget production. It clearly shoots higher than it can achieve comfortably. The film has the anti-government paranoia, but a sustained humanism toward the military leaders (middlemanagement). It also bears the marks of the Vietnam era as well. Perhaps, maybe even more than his other films, it shows a sense of its period.
Not a great film, but not uninteresting.