Movie making and acting done back in the 70’s, 60’s and so on to me is so much different than present day. Not just the special effects but some of the plots are for more than just entertainment; they make you think in real life aspects. However, some similar ideas and techniques which are obviously inherited by the directors and used on today’s projects are still great. Ideas such as the storylines or makeup secrets and basic special effects that can be argued to be better than some of the Computer Generated stuff used today. Although not great on the acting side, The Crazies, directed by one of the godfathers of horror, George A. Romero, has set the element for many of our more modern favorites.
Released in 1973, when Romero was really starting to pad his horror film resume after other classics like Night of the Living Dead and Hungry Wives, The Crazies takes place in
Evans City, Pennsylvania. The film opens to a young boy trying to scare his sister before going to bed. During his attempts, they hear a ruckus in another part of the house which turns out to be their father breaking and destroying everything in sight with a crow bar. The little girl seeks out their mother but finds her deceased in her bed. Their father then sets the house on fire with everyone inside, not remembering later on what he had done. The main characters Judy (Lane Carroll) and David (Will MacMillan) are a nurse and volunteer firefighter respectively who are expecting a child and planning on getting married. David is called upon to help fight the fire from the opening scene while Judy is summoned into the town clinic to help administer shots to people for reasons unbeknown to her.
Early on in the film, the military arrives and takes over not just the clinic but also quarantines the entire town due to the possible outbreak of a virus that causes its’ victims to act out of their right state of mind. The origin of the virus is unknown to the audience until it is explained that a plane carrying a biological weapon crashed into the neighboring mountains exposing it to the town. The military begins rounding up the town’s citizen’s going from home to home and forcing everyone out and into the town high school in an attempt to contain the outbreak. They also bring in the technician that helped create the weapon codenamed Trixie to hopefully find a definitive cure. The meat of the film follows Judy, David and three others who have managed to slip away from the military. They want to find answers about why their quiet town has been violently taken over and at the same time escape with their lives in tact.
Like a parent and their child, there is no denying that this film is an authentic blueprint for the 2010 remake. The story, originally written by Romero and Paul McCollough, is practically identical. There is significantly more interaction between the camera and the military in the original than the modern reconstruction but presents the same concept: normal everyday people gone well, very, very crazy. The portrayals of the “crazies” are slightly different between the two films in my view. The recent film shows more of a spooky, calm-nature in the personalities of the affected townspeople while the original presents them in a “going out of their mind” sense of being; “running and jumping around like it’s a rave party” type of crazy. The only exception to that mock up is a scene where an older woman is found knitting by one of the soldiers who asks her to come with him; she calmly agrees, walks over to him, and then violently begins stabbing him with her sewing needle and then sits back down and continues to knit. This is my favorite scene of the film.
George A. Romero seems to like to portray the military and government as the cause for situations such as these and definitely not the best solution for them. In this film, they are shown as making mistake after mistake. The initial mess-up being the release of the virus and later poor executions of trying to contain and fix the problem among treating the townspeople like cattle by herding them around as well as slaughtering the untreatable. This might be his view of how our government deals with certain things.
Overall, it is always good to go back to the classics and see how films were made back then. Although I really enjoyed the “jump factor” in the remake, I can’t bring myself to say many bad things about a classic created by one of the greats. The watery looking blood, the gun shot sound effects, the classic horror movie over-acting helps put The Crazies in classic horror film lore. It’s a wonder to see how much older films inspire what goes into the box office smashes we flock to the theaters to see today. I give The Crazies “3 failed government experiments out of 5”. “What’s wrong Chief? I got the bug, don’t I?”