This is a review of George Romero's "The Crazies", a horror film released in 1973, and 2010's "The Crazies", a remake directed by Breck Eisner, son of media mogul Michael Eisner.
The better of the two, Romero's film sees the US military accidentally releasing a biological weapon into a small town's water supply. This bio-agent turns the town's population into raving, murderous lunatics. As a result, the US government swiftly quarantines the town. Much violence ensues.
Romero's film is shapeless, overlong, lacking in tension towards its final act and nowhere as good as his zombie movies. It's also frequently brilliant. It's a mad, hilariously anarchic, politically incorrect mob of a movie, filled with manic energy and many strange passages, some of which were deemed shocking back in the early 1970s. Kubrick's "Dr Strangelove" - Romero borrows Kubrick's all-percussion soundtrack – and Peter Watkins' "Punishment Park" seem to be the chief influences.
Like Romero's zombie movies, "The Crazies" simmers with post-Watergate distrust. Our heroes are government hating Vietnam vets, and much of the film observes as various social institutions (the state, the nuclear family, the church) fester, implode or explode. Significantly, Romero paints contemporary society as being "crazy" long before the bio-agent was released; it was already waiting to discharge. The contaminated water merely shatters civilization's last facades and brings various latent abominations andor unspoken feelings rushing to the surface. It was always going to happen. Or, as Romero says in interviews, "what's crazy is that it hasn't already occurred."
Unsurprisingly, themes of incest and militarism abound. A father has sex with his daughter, priests set themselves on fire (echoing the famous self-immolation photographs of the Vietnam war, in which Buddhist monks set themselves alight), soldiers tear down villages like the Nazis' liquidated ghettos, helicopters echo Vietnam's Hueys, and much of the film paints military and government figureheads as being as mad and irrational as the infected townspeople. Pretty soon it becomes clear that the state's method of treating the madness is itself madness, Romero eradicating the line between infected and the uninfected; they're all crazy, the government mimicking the volatile, violent behavioural patterns of those contaminated. "You can't just push people around like this!" one man yells. But no one listens. Everyone's being pushed.
The film's pacing is slowed by various sequences which focus on annoying bureaucrats and fast-talking figureheads. Though grating, Romero's intentions with these scenes are nevertheless correct. State bureaucracy, in which men and women spend as much time fighting each other, red tape and the inefficiency of procedure, is itself virus-like and counter-intuitive; nothing gets done, everyone infected with a kind of bureaucratic madness. Elsewhere scenes show rural idylls and totems of conservative America torn apart by mad patriarchs (the film's opening sequence is "Night of the Living Dead" in microcosm). Hilariously, few people are even given a chance to succumb to the virus; the military kills them more efficiently and rapidly than the virus ever could. One of the film's jokes is that a perfectly functioning military apparatus is far more illogical, bloated and morally messed up than the collapsed, lawless hordes it battles.
Fittingly, the name of the film's bio-agent is Trixie, literally "the bringer of joy". On an allegorical level, it is the state's blunders, its inherent violence, which are directly inspiring an almost carnivalesque explosion of public mayhem. The military steps in to violently clamp down on these outbursts, but they're not fast enough. Oppositional groups clash, lock horns and slaughter one another in a mad, incoherent festival which does nothing but destroy any form of potential socio-political progress. An early 70s capitalist order is assaulted, but rather than enabling progressivism in the formation of a new social order, things are only further debilitated and any rational functions necessary for future formations are swiftly put down. The film ends with a pregnant woman dying (and with her the hope of a future), and two rugged men stepping out of the conflict's wreckage. One's an African American, airlifted above the carnage (symbolically outside and above it all), another's a fireman who embodies the adjusted (immunized) man of tomorrow: cynical and a Vietnam vet, but with a traditional love for marriage, servitude and stability (his first lines stress his love for "moderation"). The lyrics "Heaven Help Us" play over the film's closing credits.
There are countless parallels between "The Crazies" and Romero's earlier and later films. Two obscure ones: Richard France, who looks like a cross between Orson Welles and Francis Ford Coppola, plays "men of reason" in both "The Crazies" and "Dawn of the Dead". His character's always warning populaces (Richard's an Orson Welles scholar, his character having many overlaps with Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio-play). Then there's "The Crazies'" plot itself, which echoes Romero's earlier "Season of the Witch", in which the banalities of the bourgeois drive an oppressed housewife's to various subversions and perversions.
Released in 2010, Breck Eisner's "The Crazies" removes the politics of Romero's film but largely tells the same tale. It's a safe, clean and sanitised movie; like licking an Ipod while rubbing a credit card on your crotch. Glossy, overproduced, expensive looking and immaculately pressed, the film moves, looks and feels like plastic. While some of its horror moments elicit some thrills, it's mostly all very conventional and clichéd.
Still, some of Eisner's changes are interesting. While Romero has officials talking of dropping a nuke on the infected town, Eisner does it for real (encapsulating the film's philosophy: spectacle over politics). Elsewhere he spares the life of a government soldier (who helps our band of rebels), whilst the far more pessimistic Romero outright murders the very same character.
7.510 - See 2009's "Carriers", 2011's "Contagion" and 1978's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers".
Review by tieman64 from the Internet Movie Database.