George A. Romero is at his (commercial) best when he’s directing zombie movies. Maybe not Diary of the Dead, or Survival of the Dead, or…wasn’t there another one? I forget. I saw Diary of the Dead and pretty much bailed on Romero’s Dead Series. Though GAR is an icon in the horror community…he needs to hang it up. I mean, you can’t hit homeruns forever. Eventually you have to step down and rest on your lurals (unless you’re The Rolling Stones…those dudes will never retire).
Anyway, like I said, Romero’s most commercially successful movies have been about zombies. He may have done great movies not featuring zombies (Martin comes to mind), but zombies pay the bills, ya know?
Maybe Romero had that in mind when he did The Crazies. It’s not a zombie movie per se, but it is. It starts with an army cargo plane crashing in the hills surrounding a small town and releasing a biological agent that turns people…crazy, hence the title (it’s a horror movie, people, not rocket science). The army quickly moves in and quarantines the town while a small group of people led by a sheriff’s deputy attempt to escape. Romero is a master of building tension and exploring the human side of horror. While the military elements conduct themselves like full-fledged Blackshirts (and lesser minds simply see that and go “har har har, r-me bad!”), you quickly find out where they’re coming from: This bug could end life as we know it. It might be distasteful to round up and in some cases summarily execute American citizens, but you have to break a few eggs if you want to make an omelet, and in this case, the omelet is called “NOT LETTING THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE FUCKING DIE.” Same thing happened in Stephen King’s The Stand. A government engineered superflu is released from a facility and spreads across the globe. In the earlier acts, the military goes full fascist, but it’s either that or everyone dies and end of story (their efforts were in vain).
Romero is deft at human conflict. He’s also great at creating characters that seem like total wastes of human space on the surface, but who, on further inspection, have a point. Think Harry Cooper in Night of the Living Dead. Cooper was abrasive and something of a bully, but he was right: The basement was the safest place to hide. Captain Rhodes in Day of the Dead was the same way. He seemed like a tyrannical fascist at first glance, but when you look a little more closely, you find that if he is a fascist, he’s the weakest, most limp-wristed fascist ever….and more reasonable than he’s given credit for. He’s an asshole, but he’s not 1D cartoon villain twirling his mustache and laughing about how dastardly he is.
But I digress. The Crazies is fascinating as both a horror film and a human drama. For me, the most memorable scene includes Richard Liberty (before he became Frankenstine) and onscreen daughter Lynn Lowry (who’s always in some funky shit)…getting a little too friendly, if you catch my drift. They were both infected and one thing led to another…you know how it is. I’ve read a few essays on the film that say he “attempted” to have sex with his daughter. Oh no. He totally did. Unless the blood on her thigh meant something else than a popped cherry…
The Crazies is, in my opinion, Romero’s third best zombie movie, behind Night, Dawn, and Day.