Horrorible Review: “Crazy Then and Crazy Now: The Crazies”

She’s Back!* Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!

The Crazies 1973 movie poster

The Crazies 1973 movie poster

Crazy Then and Crazy Now: The Crazies

CFR: In Addition: Hello dear readers and friends! Our beloved Horrorible Review writer, Mildred, has been ill.

Only a few years after making one of the most important horror movies of all times, Night of the Living Dead, George Romero turned again to the thriller, with an even more sledgehammer approach to political messaging.  I had heard for years that the 1973 version of The Crazies was a zombie movie, so it was surprising to discover that no it isn’t.  That’s okay, though, because as a thriller it works just fine.  Years later, in 2010, a sequel was released and because Romero’s movies seem to work well on remake, the movie did well at the box office and is also a quite thrilling film.  Again, it’s commonly considered a zombie movie which confuses me. It is a horror film but they aren’t zombies.

In the 1973 version of The Crazies we see Romero working in the garish color that marks Dawn of the Dead so strongly.  There is also a lingering feel of documentary filmmaking, which was one of the things that set NotLD apart and helped make it a strong feature film.  He plays heavily on the extreme paranoia people were feeling in those barely post-Vietnam War days about nukes, the impersonal and impenetrable power of the military, and the ability of panicky men in dark rooms running that military and deciding our fates.

Just outside the bucolic small Pennsylvania town of Evan City, a man trashes the inside of his farmhouse and sets it ablaze, killing himself, his wife and his cute as a button daughter.  The son barely survives. Before you can say Calling Roger Ramjet the small town is flooded with a barrage of military types who begin rounding up the townfolk and herding them into the local school.  The town doctor’s office is taken over by a yammering bunch of tech savvy officers who yell out a lot of orders, stymie each other’s progress and nervously chain smoke cigarettes. It’s quickly obvious this is not something they have a handle on.  It’s their problem to fix though because it’s their biological weapon, code named Trixie, that is making the locals loco. There is a quick montage of hazmat clone gunmen rounding people up from homes, taverns, cars on the street.  At first there’s not much resistance but they refuse to answer questions, push people around and do a little looting. It quickly becomes routine to shoot anyone who resists or attempts to run. The total lack of military cooperation with the civilians is grating and rather scary.

Romero uses several actors from some of his other films, like Harold Wayne Jones who was later in Knightriders, and Bill Hinsman who plays the graveyard zombie in NotLD and small parts in several of Romero’s early films. There was heavy use of “high tech” which will make you smile now, but which would have been ominous back then, when not too many years before just making a long distance phone call could be stressful. There are no zombies in this film, just drugged people who can get dangerously crazy.

The 2010 version of The Crazies is not a thriller but an out and out horror film.  Kudos to the filmmakers for using a lot of the ideas from the first film and building on them rather than stealing the name and making a whole new feature.  As with the first one there are no zombies, though again people will say there are.  I liken it to 28 Days Later and the whole is it or isn’t it argument.  I feel like 28 Days is a zombie flick because the infected are universally dangerous to living folk in a mindless “I’m gonna tear you to pieces” kinda way, where in the later Crazies the infected still have some intelligence working in their Trixie soaked noggins, which makes them even scarier than zombies.

On a beautiful spring day a few states west of Pennsylvania, baseball season starts up in the quaint rural town of Ogden Marsh.  The day is ruined when a crazy guy shows up with a shotgun and walks in from the outfield.  Sherriff Dutten has to put him down right behind second base.  He’s the first of an increasing number of psychos in the town, including the descending horde of military who aren’t as polite as the early Crazies bunch.  This time the tech from on high is watching from miles above the earth as the townsfolk and military go at it hammer and tongs until the place is burning down and lifeless.  The story centers around the sheriff trying to escape town with his wife and deputy.

Several scenes are re-produced in the sequel, which is not surprising considering George Romero was a part of the creative team, though not in charge.  They took all the scary stuff, which is just as scary now as it was then like the faceless military, high tech anonymity and controllers too distant to effectively control a bad situation and added a lot of gorgeously rendered fright scenes, great makeup design, well-paced action, and good acting.  The end result is a beautiful and genuinely frightening movie.

I highly recommend watching both of these features, although I will caution you that finding the first one is not always easy.  I watched it on youtube, and Netflix has a copy, but you won’t find it at a local store. Just don’t show either of them to your conspiracy challenged friends.

The Crazies 2010 movie poster

The Crazies 2010 movie poster

LINKS:

The Crazies (1973) — Official Trailer [480p HQ]

THE CRAZIES – Trailer (2010)

*CFR: In Addition: Hello dear readers and friends! Our beloved Horrorible Review writer, Mildred, has been ill. Very ill. In fact, we have had a sickness running around our campus and lots of us have been ill – me included. But Mildred is BACK baby and I am certainly happy about this. I miss her when I don’t see her every day.

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