Fear Thy Neighbour – Film Review of The Crazies

The little known George Romero film The Crazies (from 1973, pictured above) was remade recently into a much more refined horror movie. Whilst the original focussed more on the government’s attempts to contain and eradicate this unknown ‘virus’ which causes ‘insanity’, the remake (also called The Crazies) follows the story of a selection of the townsfolk as they try to flee from the dangers – not just from the virus itself, but also from the brutal military regime. In that respect, I felt that the remake actually made more of an interesting and entertaining watch, coupled with the fact that it’s fast paced with lots of action thrown in. Though George Romero is legendary within the field of horror (specifically for his zombie films), I must declare that Breck Eisner (director of the remake) did a better job with regards to this particular storyline. I suppose, in a way, each version is a reflection of the time that it came from – as the modern one is more violent and frantic, matching the current expectations of modern horror audiences. The fact that the remake is not simply an identical copy is a definite plus for me, as I have never understood the point of doing that – if I wanted to see the original, I’d just watch the original!

It can be argued that nothing new is offered by the basic plotline of either film, due to the prominence of the ‘virus’ theme among recent horror movies (most famously with 28 Days Later). However, I thought that the added element of the military trying to implement martial law gives The Crazies an edge of realism that was lacking in previous attempts (though 28 Weeks Later did dabble with this also). Whereas the original film seemed to be awfully slow and gradual, showing more about the behind-the-scenes interactions between army and government officials, the remake does not waste any time in setting the scene – pretty much introducing the audience to the virus within the first few scenes. Whilst some people complain that the remake is ‘too fast’, not giving viewers enough time to ‘catch their breath’, I think that the portrayal is probably more reminiscent of how it would actually be in that situation. When there’s an extremely infectious virus impending, plus an army who’s prepared to shoot first and ask questions later, I doubt anyone would hang about for very long!

I do applaud what George Romero did in the original film, please don’t misunderstand me, especially considering the tiny budget that he had for it. As far as horror movies go, it is a bit different – I can’t think of any other film where ‘insanity’ has been the antagonist. Sure, The Crazies will never beat his other works, such as Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead, but it’s definitely not one that should be completely disregarded. I like the fact that The Crazies is sort of a statement about the secrecy of the government, especially regarding ‘weapons of mass destruction’. The virus in both versions of the film came about due to it being developed by the government as a chemical weapon which eventually managed to be exposed to the general population. This is an interesting point to explore when just a few years prior to the film’s release President Richard Nixon renounced the use of chemical weapons and all methods of biological warfare, as well as spending time researching safer disposal methods of chemical weapons. It seems the paranoia was still high at this time, and even today this continues to be an issue of contention.

The only reason that the original failed at the box office was just because of poor distribution, and it has now managed to achieve a cult status, albeit remaining a bit obscure to non horror fanatics! As much as I liked the original though, I felt that the remake was much more in touch with today’s film audiences. I believe that enough similarity with the original was maintained to protect the actual ‘point’ of the story, yet enough innovation and excitement was thrown in to create a very enjoyable viewing experience.

A lover of horror films...