Friday, January 29, 2010

The Crazies (1973)

Quick Synopsis: Contagion is accidentally released into the water supply of a small town leading to mass psychosis amongst its populace.

George Romero knows zombies. They play to his strengths and weaknesses, the latter being namely, poor dialogue and wooden acting. Everybody sounds smarter and moves more naturally when surrounded by the living dead. It is when he ventures out of his comfort zone when things seem to fall apart. The Crazies is no different.

What we have here is basically adults playing cowboys + indians for roughly 100 minutes with a little soft ball social commentary thrown into the mix. An astounding number of private citizens immediately rebel with force against the imposed martial law (unless I just don't understand 1970's gun culture). We end up following a particular band of survivors trying to sneak to the town limits while fighting off swarms of soldiers and the growing realization that the virus is spreading among them.

There are a number of questionable scenes scattered throughout. The incestuous make out session between father and daughter apparently brought on by their infections was unnecessary and the reaction by the soldiers when they attempt to lead the head medical officer into a containment zone was laughable. Seriously, a man calmly approaches them from a restricted area holding test tubes of blood and they immediately determine he must just be another hillbilly that got loose? They didn't know a medical staff was in the building trying to find an antidote? I guess there is a lesson here for all you scientists out there. Never take off your lab coat. You lose all credibility without it. As well, the scene where another scientist states that they could find someone with an immunity anywhere and then immediately shrugs off the notion of testing one of the captured survivors who had direct contact with infected individuals for days but shows no sign of it is equally as bad. I understand that we, as a species, are prone to making poor choices, especially in times of peril, but all this came off as more slapstick than anything.

The ending, on the other hand, is fitting and works on a level that Romero is familiar with. He does have a penchant for making difficult scenarios oddly humorous and there is a touch of that in the reaction of the sergeant in charge as he is relayed information about the virus spreading outside of the quarantine zone. It is horrifying news as this will likely mean the virus will continue to spread through the nation and yet he seems almost amused by it all. It is a rare interesting moment in a not that much better than TV movie of the week material.


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