The Crazies (1973)

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Yet another grim fight-to-survive apocalypse film from our boy George A. Romero.  Although Romero is more typically known for his work among the Living Dead, he also lent his creative juices to other cult classics including The Crazies* which gives you the feeling that Romero didn’t really care WHAT messed up creature was trying to kill his characters, as long as SOMETHING was trying to kill them (and usually succeeding).

You have already heard me rant, at length, about how much I approve of the premise behind The Crazies –  the plausibility compared with your traditional zombie outbreak and all that crap – so, leaving that all behind, I guess this review is more about the original The Crazies as an actual film, rather than its viability as a credible outbreak scenario. Alas, this may not be pleasant.

The Crazies suffers, as a lot of older Romero films do, from being excruciatingly dull to watch. The premise is good, the plot is good, the acting is… well in a lot of cases not so good… but unfortunately all the good stuff is swamped by a lot of mundane and pointless chat and military stuff that leaves you wading your way through it trying to find the nuggets of awesomeness scattered too sparsely throughout. It DOES have its good bits – there are some incredibly creepy scenes where one of our main characters – a pretty teenage girl – slowly turns loopy (including a scene where she and her father get a bit jiggy-with-it…) and the opening scene, which has been mimicked in the re-make, of a father going crazy and burning his children alive in their family home is haunting – however these bits are compressed between a lot of boring filler which makes the film a real trudge to get through.

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Boredom was my overwhelming take-away thought about this film but, dullness aside, Romero knows how to make a good crazy person. Although shots of the ‘Crazy’ are too few and far between, those glimpses we do get are pretty awesome. Some of our main characters’ decent into madness are brilliant to watch – I refer you back to the pretty teenage girl who is FANTASTIC – and Romero does a great job at blurring the lines between what is sane, what is perfectly normal hysteria and panic considering the situation and what may be the first signs of the illness. There is also something inherently scary about gasmasks, and if that were all it took to make a good horror film then this film would certainly be numero uno.

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This film is far kinder to the military than a lot of newer releases have been.  Whereas in newer films the military tends to be inherently evil, here they are just a bit inept and trying to keep control of a situation waaay out of their control. I imagine, at the time, the military’s inability to deal effectively with the situation would have been one cause of unease for the viewer, but I suppose that  desensitizement, as well as living in a world where we are now used to the military’s inability to deal with things, makes this a little bit less scary and a little bit more typical than it would have been in the day. We are pretty used to films were the military are being crap. One day I would love to see a film that is NOT made from a military perspective but yet shows them dealing rationally, effectively and competently with a threat. That would be nice (and unusual).

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Anyway, that was a slight tangent…

In conclusion: think of The Crazies as a bit like a massive bowl of muesli with the occasional chocolate chip hidden within it…. Is it really worth breaking your jaw chewing through all those oats just to find a couple of bits of chocolate?** The answer is No. It isn’t. Just eat Coco Pops.

Oh yeah, and a guy self-immolates…
Oh yeah, and a guy self-immolates…

* which granted is not that big a leap from Romero’s typical stuff – crazy people running around causing the apocalypse as opposed to dead people running around causing the apocalypse…

** saying this, my housemate’s cereal of choice is muesli, which he appears to enjoy, so maybe not the best analogy.

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