In the small town of Evan City, Pittsburg, a biological virus, code-named Trixie, is accidentally unleashed into the waters. It turns everyone who comes to contact with it into a madman: a grown man burns his entire family alive, an old lady stabs people with a knitting needle, church-going folks and family men are turned into impromptu murderers. In the chaos, the government puts the town under quarantine, and a full-blown war is started trying to contain it. Meanwhile, a fireman and his wife, along with three more people, are trying to get escape.
Many consider The Crazies to be one of Romero’s lesser work. I will gladly disagree. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of his grimmest, darkest tales, and is as apocalyptic in tone and feel as Night Of The Living Dead. Both films have many elements of familiarity: people fighting against an unknown force, fighting against each other, trapped in a home, trying to stay sane while at the same time fighting a disease, and of course, an apocalyptic ending. Like Night, the movie features very low-rent names, but they’re very good. The beautiful Lane Carroll, who would later appear in Martin, stole the show with her beauty, sensitivity, and sympathetic performance. She’s the most realistic character, and is a good contrast to her husband played by Will MacMillan. Then there’s the duo of Richard Liberty and Lynn Lowry (They Came From Within, Sugar Cookies, Cat People) as a father and son tagging along with the firemen. As you might remember, Richard Liberty played Dr. Logan in Day Of The Dead, and while he’s not as insane as he was in Day, his role is very sympathetic, and is understandable when he finally reaches the breaking point, as he is protecting his daughter, the only thing he has in the world. When they both go insane and begin to practice incest on each other, I got the shivers.
This movie shares other links to Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, technical ones, not just narrative ones. Romero’s documentary background comes in handy in this film, making the situation very realistic, more realistic than your typical ‘virus on the loose’ film. My favorite sequences involve the people from the government, since they look like real meetings, and in often gets very intense, particularly the debates between the government agents and the scientists. These scenes are an actor’s wet dream. The soldier’s biological uniforms are one of the most striking elements in the film as well, it’s not surprising that they have become something of an iconic image for the film and is as attached to it as the little girl zombie is to Night Of The Living Dead.
One thing that has to be mentioned is the links between this film, and another famous exploitation film, I Drink Your Blood. Both have a lot in common: they feature the threat of a virus that takes over a small town, they both have survivors fighting the infected, they both have people burning each other alive, and they both have the beautiful Lynn Lowry acting insane. But while I Drink Your Blood is a fun exploitation ride, The Crazies is the better film, being more ambitious, more cinematic, and more real. One of my favorite Romero films, and is recommended to all.