The Crazies (1973)
Coming off the heels of watching The Collector, a film eventually remade into a sexier, gorier and ultimately dumber film that barely shared anything with the original film outside of the title, I decided that I would like to watch a film that might potentially suffer a similar fate, however unlikely that may be.
You see unlike The Collector, which is a borderline masterpiece of psychological terror, The Crazies is a relatively unknown and lightly regarded exploitation film from the early years of George Romero’s career. Far from being some lost treasure, The Crazies is typically viewed as an easily forgotten relic, but I was still hopeful that it might be better than the reputation that had proceeded it.
Something strange is happening in the small Pennsylvania town of Evans City. The townsfolk are starting to go a little crazy sometimes. And when the military show up to get the town back under control, it quickly becomes obvious that the military is as inept as the townsfolk are crazy.
Going into The Crazies I made sure to lower my expectations as much as humanly possible, but even with that nothing could have prepared me for its opening scene, or the fallout that would directly entail as a result. Focusing on a young brother scaring the socks off of his little sister by chasing her around their artificially darkened house as she tries to protect herself from her runaway imagination with just a simple flashlight. But soon something far more dangerous begins to lurk in the shadows.
You soon discover the monster lurking in the dark is the children’s father, driven mad by what neither they nor the audience knows. But when the children try to hide in the protect bosom of their mother, only to discover daddy has already dealt with her you know that things aren’t going to end happily for this seemingly nuclear family. Sure enough, their father soon locks the children away and as punishment sets the house on fire, killing them and erasing all trace of his former happy home life.
It is an absolutely killer opening scene, one that invokes all manner of conflicting emotions as it tugs at your empathetic heartstrings. Unfortunately, its the best The Crazies will ever get by a long shot.
You see, the biggest fault of The Crazies is that is a scatter shot film, one that focuses on multiple story lines and a seemingly unlimited number of characters, resulting in a confusing plot filled with in-your-face political ideologies, stock characters, bad acting and a surprisingly limited feeling of dread.
You see, the biggest problem with The Crazies is it complete lack of direction. The film follows three primary story lines (one focusing on the townsfolk trying to escape, another focusing on the military trying to control the townsfolk, and still a third involving the government attempting to cover its ass for the whole fiasco). Any one of the story lines was strong enough to focus a film on, but by splitting them up and trying to devote equal time to all three the film diminishes the power of each of them.
So the plight of the townsfolk never is able to reach a height of a decent escape film, nor does the struggles of the military to be even half-way competent ever reach the point of being a farce, and the government just comes across as pricks rather than full blown evil assholes. Its all just half-hearted attempts watered down by the lack of screen time to fully develop the characters and the story lines.
Compounding the lack of plot development is the fact everyone in this film is a terrible actor. And not just terrible like how Hayden Christensen sucks at acting, I’m talking Corky St Clair level of bad, where people project emotion by simply talking louder rather than, you know, emote. So of course scene after scene culminates in people attempting to yell over each other, resulting in me cranking the volume on my television down to eleven in a failed effort to protect myself from getting a headache.
That being said, there is the occasional interesting visual strung throughout the film, my favorite being a handmade prison that was sculpted out of cinder blocks that the person I assume to be the primary protagonist constructs to protect his infected girlfriend (Wife? Seriously, fuck if I know how these people were related to each other and I stopped caring hours ago.)
But even the occasionally sharp visual is hardly enough to make up for a horror film that is shockingly absent of scares. Let me repeat, this is a horror film that not only doesn’t have any scares, but rarely even attempts to have any. Why? Hell if I know, and by this point I’m just sort of sick of even contemplating it as The Crazies seriously sucks.
And as I entered into this whole review I had this grand plan of doing another juxtaposition of the original versus the remake, primarily because I hoped the remake would be a superior film to The Crazies, unlike The Collector. But herein lies the problem, The Crazies, both the original and the remake, are not good films, though to be fair the remake actually improves upon the original in a few areas but still ultimately fails. And now, nine hundred or so words in I’ve decided neither of these films is worth any more effort on my part and so I’ve decided to just take my ball and go home, because I can and because a blank page is more entertaining than The Crazies.
That’s right, this just happened.