Up until a few years ago, before the remake had filled cinemas throughout the land, this film was lesser known, a bit of a real obscure Romero. Most film fans know Romero mainly for his Zombie films and of cause, there is very good reason for this although what he manages to do best is deal with social issues and the emotions which conjure due to imminent unforeseen situations, out of the characters control. This is why his Zombie films are highly recognized. Night and Dawn especially, deal with the human side of a situation. The fantastical side of the dead returning from the grave really plays a secondary role to this. With the Crazies, Romero wanted to shoot a film which deals with the same emotions and humanity which he caught on film with Night, but within a film far removed from fantasy, dealing with a bigger horror; politics and the military.
The story in a nutshell involves a deadly chemical virus, born in a lab for military purposes, which is leaked into a small American town causing horrific results. Those infected become insane blood thirsty animals. There’s only one thing the government can do, enforce a military blockade and lock the town down and destroy the evidence.
This plot has been used since in other homage zombie films, but it’s amazing that Romero was the originator of this plot, outside of the Zombie genre. The Crazies has never really been part of the genre and mostly ignored or overlooked in favour of Dawn and Night but here is the real essence of what the zombie culture is all about.
As with many or Romero’s early films, there was little in the way of budget here which results in very little real actors being employed, opting to use friends and the residents of the local town. The Crazies gets away with this remarkably with a gritty documentary feel at times, with TV and radio warnings and debates similar to those in his early Z films.
Romero captures humanity and uses his film as an anti war message and shows what can be done on a shoe string budget.