The Crazies (1973)
A low-budget 1970s horror movie about a mutant vaccine that turns the people of Evans City into crazed killers... it sounds like guaranteed rubbish. Until you learn that it's directed and co-written by George A. Romero.
The Crazies is dated, there's no pretending otherwise. Most of the acting stinks (Lloyd Hollar is an honourable exception), the special effects are laughable and the shocks are tame by today's standards. Yet against the odds The Crazies still works.
It works because it's a good story, well told. It's just not the story you might think.
On the surface it's a simple horror story with one or two twists - predictably the "vaccine" turns out to have been developed for germ warfare.
But this is George Romero, so beneath the surface is some very strong albeit unsubtle social commentary. The real story is about what the authorities do to the people of Evans City in the name of protecting them - and the rest of the country - from a threat the government itself created. It's not the victims of the virus who are the really crazy ones.
The people of the town are the victims, however they're as much at risk from the soldiers as from the virus. The most worrying scenes are not those of crazed killing but those of faceless soldiers in HazMat suits pulling children out of their beds at gunpoint.
As you'd expect there is soon an open war between the townspeople and the army. Scared soldiers open fire and massacre many uninfected people who are simply trying to get away and save themselves.
Yet the soldiers are also victims. It's made clear that the commanding officer (Lloyd Hollar) is genuinely trying to do his best - if the virus does escape millions more could die. Do the ends justify the means? What choice does he have?
A bad situation is a mess made worse by bureaucracy, lack of planning and lack of resources. It sounds all too familiar.
And that's what really scares me about The Crazies - the familiarity. The film might be out of date but the danger isn't. With the state of the world today and the fear of terrorist dirty bombs, the scenario is unpleasantly relevant. If such an incident did occur - whether caused by terrorists or our own government - any of us could find ourselves in Evans City.
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