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The Crazies – Past and Present

March 8, 2010

The Zone have just put up my twin reviews of The Crazies :

It is interesting to note that both films deal, on a thematic level, with the way in which America wages its wars :  Romero’s version is a tightly focused critique of the idea that one can wage war in an ordered and rational manner.  The film paints a viciously satirical portrait of an American military weighed down by petty bureaucracy and staffed by incompetent boobs.  Meanwhile, Eisner’s version is a much vaguer indictment of the savagery stirred up by America’s decision to topple the Iraqi and Afghan governments.

4 Comments
  1. March 19, 2010 12:29 pm

    I watched the original about a week ago, I have to admit I liked it much more than you do. I thought it had a nice sense of paranoia, I thought it played well with the issue of the nurse’s innoculation and the increasing impossibility of telling who was infected and who merely stressed out.

    Wonderfully 1970s ending too. To be honest, I’d rate it as among Romero’s better films, though with each new film he puts out it gets easier to put any of the earlier ones as being among his better. Frankly, after Day of the Dead he’s not done anything of note, though I liked Diary more than most (which isn’t to say I think it’s a good film, that I think is profoundly flawed).

    I haven’t seen the remake yet. Could the lack of clarity as to whether the violence is to do with Trixie or the breakdown of order be intentional though? The original is clearly intentionally ambiguous at times as to whether people are simply failing to cope with the situation or are infected, is the remake trying something similar?

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  2. March 19, 2010 12:58 pm

    To be honest, I’m not sure how one might tell the difference between an evasively vague subtext and an intentionally ambiguous one.

    I opted for vagueness because the film really does devote very little time to discussing what it is that trixie does. There is no equivalent to the infodumping scientist of the original. It feels as though trixie has the effects that are needed on a scene by scene basis and there are also some humans going nuts at the same time.

    If it is intentionally ambiguous then I am not sure what it might have gained the film-maker. If you are going to lay down the Iraq War imagery that heavily I don’t think you get to then be coy about the rest of your subtext. So either way, I would say it was a weakness of the remake.

    You’re right about Romero though. He has made exactly one decent film.

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  3. March 19, 2010 4:49 pm

    Fair point there on the vagueness. I take the point on the subtext issue too.

    On Romero, I’ve not actually seen it but I know some rate Martin quite highly. I think the original Dead trilogy holds up pretty well. I first saw Night at the Electric Cinema on a late night showing and it was effective, genuinely scary, of course that was back in the late ’80s and it hadn’t had the massive overexposure then it’s had since.

    Dawn is excellent. I think Day works fairly well, it’s not as good as either of the predecessors, but it’s an effective end to the trilogy for all that.

    Dawn though for me is his best work. After that Night. I’m not sure how I’d rate Crazies and Day against each other, at that point we’re getting into definitely flawed territory on both (your point about the visual palette of the Crazies is well made) and after that leaving aside possibly Martin we suddenly go a long way downhill.

    But of course he has a new one coming out. You didn’t like the last one? To paraphrase Johnny Depp in Ed Wood, his next one will be better…

    And none of them can be as bad as Land, just terrible.

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  4. March 19, 2010 5:04 pm

    At this point Romero doesn’t even need to try. He’ll keep getting funding for Zombie movies and he’ll keep making them until he decides to retire.

    One tends to think of film directors as quite moneyed artists but there’s also a side of the profession that is very much about securing your next paycheque. Particularly in the indie market. See Herzog taking on documentaries for environmental charities and stepping in to direct the Bad Lieutenant film. At this point, Romero is working a career. Land of the Dead was enough to secure funding for another film and that’s all he needs.

    There’s nothing wrong with that of course but it does rather grate against his over-exposure and the hyping of Night as a classic. I quite like it but I think Dawn is better.

    There’s also a question about how many ideas Romero has actually had. Night + Crazies gives you Dawn. Day, Land etc are all developments of the same set of tropes perfected in Dawn.

    I don’t rate him as a director, certainly compared to contemporaries like Wes Craven but I don’t bear him any particular ill will either.

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