292) The Crazies (1973) Dir: George Romero Date Released: March 1973 Date Seen: September 13, 2009 Rating: 3.5/5
Despite a sluggish pace and a surplus of scenes that devolve into shouting matches between military officials, The Crazies cannot be dismissed as shadows of either George Romero's Night of the Living Dead or Day of the Dead. The horror of The Crazies does not come from the proliferation of "Trixie," the mysterious virus residents of a small Pennsylvania town have contracted, but rather from its containment. The film's lack of momentum is an organic necessity which admittedly can sometimes be irksome but ultimately pays off wonderfully by the time the film leaves its characters to scrabble like mad for a way out once there's none left.
As a result, The Crazies is also probably Romero's most satisfying portrayals of the military. While the jumpsuit and gas-mask-clad grunts running around with semi-automatics are effectively more menacing and alien than the actual "Crazies," the officials that give them their marching orders are actually human. They lose their tempers on a regular basis but again, that's a result of the impossible task their superiors have given them: find a cure for an untreatable disease or kill 'em all.
The cost of making that daunting decision doesn't manifest itself in subtle ways but Romero has never seriously considered subtlety to be the best policy. The image of a self-immolating Christian priest about Romero's preference for blunt pessimism and thanks to his faux-doc style of shooting,* it feels pretty damn unnerving.
*It's important to note the difference between contemporary documentary style today and the kind of the '60s and '70s. The difference is that the camera used to be more distant and less obtrusive while the frame in a today's docs quake frenetically as it allows us to count the pores on its subject's face. Results vary obviously and one style is not necessarily better than the other all the time.