Diabolical manna falls from the sky and infuses a small town with madness as the creator struggles to remedy his insidious mistake. Director George A. Romero condemns the military hierarchy with this scathing account of incompetence; like children playing with Promethean fire who burn the whole world down.
Romero’s duel focus splits the narrative between a small group of survivors and the military leaders creating a schizoid effect that heightens the tension while allowing the story to project a volatile polemic. The film begins with the brutality of domestic violence as two children witness their father’s murderous rampage; this is a metaphor concerning an incoherent government and its dependant citizens. More people begin to act violently and within a few hours soldiers appear in truckloads, closing roads and securing a perimeter around the rural town. The survivors are comprised of Vietnam Vets David and his friend Clank, David’s pregnant girlfriend Judy, and Artie and his teenage daughter Kathie. Now that Martial Law has been instituted, the group must fight against their own government to breach the perimeter and reach safety. But they soon become victims of the manmade plague and turn against each other. This is frightening because they understand that their mind is skewed but are helpless to control their behavior. Most soldiers are portrayed as abusive patriarchs with the authority to kill, shooting first and never asking questions. Major Rider is a man of action burdened with a debilitating hierarchy, a by-the-book Commander who has sight of the larger dilemma; he must contain the infection before it spreads throughout the continent. But he is immobilized by his inchoate superiors and the drudgery of routine, condemning the weapon’s inventor to a high school lab. If “Trixie” cannot be contained then the President is willing to drop a nuclear bomb to suppress the contagion.
Once again Romero gets the most from a miniscule budget by utilizing stock footage and montage to build suspense. Exposition is transmitted by radio and television within the film’s framework which effects a realism that transcends the narrow composition. Instead of a festival of blood and gore clichés THE CRAZIES becomes an aggressive dispute against maddening authority. Final Grade: (B)