David and Judy are both madly in love and expecting a baby, one night both are called in to work to deal with a tragedy that has occurred as David rushes off to help put out a farmhouse fire and Judy goes into the doctor's office she works in to go treat the survivors of the fire. Things seem really strange and suddenly soldiers in hazmat suits carrying guns take over the doctor's office and begin rounding up the townspeople rather violently. The doctor injects Judy with a vaccine to protect her from an outbreak the government has stepped in to take care of and sneaks her out of the office to go rejoin David so they can escape the town. Unfortunately David and Judy are captured by the soldiers along with a few townspeople and a fellow firefighter named Clank. As the townspeople begin catching the virus they become violent and irrational causing the soldiers to kill much of the populace which ignites the town in a gun toting frenzy. David, Judy and a few survivors escape trying to find a way out of the town as paranoia spreads, soldiers are killing, townspeople are killing and those infected by the Trixie virus are the Crazies wreaking havoc upon anyone and everyone.
The greatest thing about a Romero film is that while he delivers great spectacle he can also deliver a very poignant subtext. This film started as a screenplay by a collaborator of his named Paul Mcollogh under the title the Mad People. Within the Mad People, the first bit of the script focuses on the government conspiracy and cover up but then resigns the rest of the story over to the survival of David and Judy's group. The conspiracy concept was what interested producer Lee Hessell who also produced Romero's There's Always Vanilla. Hessell bought the script and green-lit it as Romero's next film with the idea Romero could rewrite it to expand the conspiracy plot. What we get is Romero not only playing on the government cover up but making us question the human race in that situation. With one great throw away line we are given the thought that not everybody shooting at the soldiers is infected. "The rednecks will be out in full force with guns." The same idea of gun toting nuts was played heavily in the end of Night of the Living Dead and given a whole sequence in Dawn of the Dead. The Soldiers at first seem to be there to help but once they encounter violent resistance from the townspeople they open fire with no concern. Being a cover up the townspeople are told nothing and are being forced out of their homes rather violently, some don't take kindly and fight back with armed force. The most genius thing is you can't physically tell if someone's infected, you can only tell by their emotions and actions which is hard when everyone is armed to the teeth killing each other. It gives the title a double meaning. Those infected by the Trixie virus are indeed crazy but what does it say about the people or soldiers who shoot without knowledge of situations? Aren't we all the Crazies then? How easily we are manipulated to violence through fear. One such scene has the citizens armed to the teeth in a gunfight with the military while one of the infected sweeps up the blood in the open field with a smile on her face.
This film also comes on the heels of Vietnam where both the characters of David and Clank both served in the military. There were a lot of horror films during war times especially in post Vietnam era, where they focused on the idea of the horrors of the war being brought home to a place you associated with safety. Clank and David both fought for their country where many believed them to be wrong and now that same government who sent them there have accidentally unleashed something in their home and are trying to erase their mistake and not taking responsibility for it. These horrors are echoed in the imagery of the first scene where the soldiers round up the citizens, expertly staged, shot and cut by Romero. They take an old man and woman from their home as their scared voices are heard over a shot of the old man in his military uniform, a family being torn asunder as a child shoots his toy army gun crying and his toy army men are stepped on by the invading soldiers, imagery showing this Apple Pie American family who probably taught the child to respect the government now being plagued by it.
While the opening of the film is the first case of the Trixie virus, we don't actually see any chaos from the town itself for quite a while with a majority of the first part of the film being the growing paranoia and hysteria being brought to the town by the military itself and their inability to divulge any information of the situation to anyone in the town. Do as your told, don't question us or we will be forced to shoot. It's some scary stuff that Romero really shows off especially with the scenes of the government officials sitting in an office wondering if the town is worth saving and how they can throw the blame at somebody else.
Romero always makes his film productions family affairs in a sense with him always filming in his home of Pennsylvania giving all his films that Romero pride. Much of the cast were locals and a lot of the military personnel were high school students put up in the suits. As a huge Romero fan I was super excited to see a young Richard Liberty who played "Frankenstein" in Day of the Dead who was interestingly paired as the father of Lyn Lowery's Kathy. I'm going to be completely honest Lyn Lowery scares the hell out of me in movies. Most people will know her from Cat People but I'll always know her as the psychosexual host of a parasite in Shivers. She is a gorgeous woman but the expressions of utmost pleasure she conveyed while some horrifying things go on in that flick freaked me out. In the Crazies she shows signs of the virus and has spurts of childlike confusion and giggling laughter while people are dying or murdering which just creeps you the hell out.
This movie has a few slow parts with clunky editing at times, but it's also Romero's first real action movie with Night being more of a siege film. When the action comes he doesn't skimp on blood and he lingers on a couple of death scenes that look so real and are so effective that it shocks you at times. As with any Romero film be prepared for a dark depressing ending, but it's also one of those endings that sticks with you a bit. The final shot of the movie set to a song written specifically for the movie always stuck with me as the thing I remembered most because it was so bleak yet beautifully done.
15 Days til' Halloween! Halloween!
15 Days til' Halloween! Silver Shamrock!