Going Slightly Mad (The Crazies, 1973)
Not unlike Night of the Living Dead, the Crazies presents a situation in which our loved ones may be the biggest threat. Unlike his first film, of course, the threat is solely from the living.
The film opens up in the middle of things. Two kids are playing in their house, only to be chased by their father. What is quickly revealed is that the military has already arrived and started to close off the town to deal with an apparent viral outbreak. When contracted, the virus slowly begins to turn you violent. The military begins to bring the town to a central location while arguing with the local government.
A small group of locals escape the military and start hiding in the town while trying to get out entirely.
The Crazies goes back and forth between these two groups, with a surprisingly heavy focus on the military side. It becomes increasingly clear as the story goes forward, the military was ill-prepared for this situation and are rapidly losing their grasp on it.
The film has some really disturbing moments, including the violent threat to children, people self-immolating and a scene in which a young woman’s father attempts to rape her. Within the context of the story, these scenes show the breakdown and destructive nature of the virus, but they are uncomfortable none the less.
Romero and fellow writer Paul McCollough clearly gave a lot of thought to how the government might try and handle an outbreak of this nature…so much that the characters who feel like they ought to be the leads seem entirely secondary to the soldiers and scientists.
The Crazies has a pretty bleak ending which fits in with much of Romero’s work. This was a vast improvement over Season of the Witch and other than being slightly long is a good film.