What Zombie Flick 'The Crazies' Is Really About

Pitchforks, shotguns, and subtext

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The Crazies, Breck Eisner's remake of George Romero's 1973 gore-thriller, isn't quite a zombie movie--there are no reanimated corpses stalking the innocents, only normal people driven insane by bio-toxins. But it employs the familiar trope of townspeople shuffling around, staring vacantly, and disembowling neighbors. As a result, it's receiving the usual zombie movie treatment; as long as these movies have existed, critics have been happy to read them as social commentary. In the midst of the blood and mayhem, what do cinéastes think The Crazies is really about?

  • About the State Gone Mad  The Boston Globe's Ty Burr thinks The Crazies is a fairly straightforward fear-of-centralized-authority exercise. Burr hears echoes of everything from the Holocaust up through contemporary conspiracy theorists:
"The Crazies" is at its most unsettling when the Army shows up and it's assuredly not on the town's side. Back in 1973, that plot twist fed right into the post-Kent State paranoia that if our government was shooting at anyone it was us, not them (whoever they were). These days, government skullduggery is such a cliche that it animates almost every thriller out there, but this movie literalizes it in ways that are at times shocking - and at other times too weighty for a slender genre movie to bear. The sight of a boxcar full of corpses carries far more associations than "The Crazies" knows what to do with.
  • About the Post-9/11 World  Rick Groen in The Globe and Mail sees an allegory for our vigilant, detainment-happy society--but not a terribly effective one. "The army descends to turn the entire town into a fenced concentration camp, locking up the infected and the innocent alike. The script tries to get some au courant terrorist mileage out of this – the difficulty of sifting out the crazies from everyone else, and the consequent sacrifice of liberty to security – but quickly gets bored with the effort. Almost as quickly as we do."
  • About Everyday Horrors  In a C+ review, The A.V. Club's Keith Phipps calls the movie's opening set piece "a chilling echo of the public acts of violence that have become the stuff of everyday news," but mourns the film's squandered potential: "Whatever contemporary resonance it might have had... gets lost in a procession of competent—and sometimes slightly better than competent—shocks." Phipps also twits the too-plain aesthetic of the marauding madmen: "Without the rotting ickiness of proper zombies, they just seem like methed-out Iowans looking for a fix. That’s scary, but not scary enough."
  • About Other Movies, Unfortunately  An unimpressed Robert Abele finds that The Crazies refers to nothing weightier than its own cinematic tradition. "If Romero's chaos-fueled original, pockmarked with troops-versus-civilian shootouts and bureaucratic bickering, was intended to mirror a fractured society's uneasy pulse (think: Vietnam), Eisner's loud, squishy and jokey redo simply reflects other movies, including westerns, disaster flicks and zombie creep-outs."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.