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Film / The Crazies (1973)

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The Crazies (also known as Code Name: Trixie) is a 1973 Sci-Fi Horror movie written and directed by George A. Romero (of Living Dead Series fame).

After its water supply is accidentally contaminated by a bioweapon, a small town in Pennsylvania suffers from a string of violent attacks among its citizens, ranging from beatdowns to arson. Firefighter David (Will McMillan) and his pregnant wife Judy (Lane Carroll) find themselves thrust into all this, and to top things off the U.S. military quarantines the town with orders to shoot and kill anybody who attempts to escape, whether infected or not. Now David and Judy must try their damnedest to leave town before either the infected or the military get them.

Despite failing at the box office and getting mixed reviews, the movie gained a huge cult following and managed to get a remake in 2010.

This film provides examples of:

  • All for Nothing: Watts synthesizes an antidote, but while he runs around trying to find Peckham to tell him, he's mistaken for a local and herded into the high school gym. He ends up getting killed and the antidote is destroyed.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Since people infected with the Trixie virus become delirious and homicidal, the army assumes that anyone behaving mindlessly is a "crazy". However, Dr. Watts notes that this doesn't rule out the possibility that some of the crazies are actually uninfected people panicking in response to the military takeover.
      Dr. Watts: The whole thing's insane! How can you tell who's infected and who isn't?
      • Throughout the movie, the townspeople revolt against the army, which results in multiple battles between the two sides. While the audience can easily pick out a couple of rebels as obviously infected (such as the woman sweeping the grass with a broom while following the others), it is ambiguous if the other rebels are infected too.
      • Downplayed for David. After Judy dies, he becomes silent either because he wants to spite the government for killing his girlfriend or because he caught the Trixie virus and is now catatonic as a result. It's implied that he is one of the rare characters immune to the virus, but the doctors don't bother checking to confirm if that indeed is the case.
  • Anti-Villain: The infected are by no means malevolent, but several are extremely dangerous to the people around them without even realizing it, like Clank and Artie once they become infected.
  • Come Back to Bed, Honey: David and Judy. "You ignore the fire signal and I'll ignore the ringing phone."
  • Creator Cameo: Had the president ever turned around, the viewers would have seen it was director George Romero.
  • Cutting the Knot: Subverted; when someone tries to cut through the red tape, it only makes things worse (see Just Following Orders).
  • Decoy Protagonist: After the Cold Open, the first characters to appear on screen are David, Judy, and Clank with Colonel Peckem and Dr. Watts making their debut much later. It's downplayed since the movie devotes plenty of screen time on the Evans City protagonists' escape from the military, but Peckem and Watts clearly have the more important objective of finding a cure for the Trixie virus. Indeed, the ending focuses on Peckem, who leaves to manage a new outbreak in Kentucky.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: This movie was made during the Cold War and it shows.
    • David and Clank are Vietnam War veterans dealing with the fallout of the Trixie virus, an enemy that is less advanced but nonetheless has the stealth advantage.
    • The American government is doing their best to prevent Trixie from spreading and scoring a domino effect against the lands surrounding Evans City, so much so that they are willing to nuke the small town to achieve their goals.
    • There is also a Red Scare element regarding the Trixie virus as the infected look no different from the uninfected.
    • Similar to Thích Quảng Đức, the priest sets himself on fire to protest the military occupation.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • The army dubs the infected townspeople as "crazies" since the Trixie virus turns its victims into murderous maniacs.
    • On the other hand, Dr. Watts points out that some of the crazies are actually healthy people resorting to violence against the military presence.
    • In addition, the entire situation is incredibly stressful and crazy, driving otherwise rational people insane.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: David tries this but it backfires, causing Judy to flee in panic; then David is attacked by townspeople thinking he's a soldier and Judy gets shot.
  • Driven to Suicide: Artie.
  • Evil Army: Played straight from the view of the townspeople. Subverted by showing Reasonable Authority Figures acting under conditions of great stress; limited time, information, and resources; and idiotic restrictions from higher authority.
  • The Faceless: Only the back of the President's head is seen, made all the stranger by having him only appear on a Video Phone screen.
  • Gun Struggle: The first indication that things are starting to go pear-shaped. Sheriff Cooper resists being forcibly disarmed by the military, and ends up being fatally shot.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Clank realises he's infected and draws off the soldiers chasing his friends.
  • Here We Go Again!: The film ends with Peckhem being sent to another town where Trixie has broken out.
  • Hero of Another Story: Several of Watts' colleagues are working on trying to cure the disease outside to town, offscreen. The final scene mentions they've found an immune monkey among their test subjects which gives them hope for immune humans (although the soldiers in town aren't good at finding any immune humans among the quarantined people).
  • Idiot Ball: The security restrictions hamper any attempt to deal with the crisis effectively. The top scientist on the Trixie project is sent into the town to do a job that any lab technician could do, then he's not allowed to send blood samples out of the city due to the quarantine.
  • The Immune: David. Too bad he's the only person in town they never test for immunity and is too angry over what's happened to tell them.
  • Improbable Weapon User: The infected old lady who stabs a soldier with her knitting needles.
  • Just Following Orders: A bureaucrat gets frustrated by the slow response to the crisis, and orders the next available member of the Trixie team into the crisis zone. Cue Dr. Watts futilely arguing with the military police driving him to the plane that it makes no sense for the developer of the Trixie virus to be sent into the town where he doesn't have access to his laboratory or computers; all they need is someone to take samples.
    Soldier: I'm sorry, sir. Those are the orders.
    Dr. Watts: Orders, my ass! Stop the car! (they don't) You're going to have a hell of a time getting me on that plane, soldier.
    Soldier: Maybe so, sir, but we'll do it.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: The sheriff's deputy initially fights back along with him but surrenders when his boss dies.
  • Logical Weakness: Like most germs, the Trixie Virus is vulnerable to ultraviolet light, very much Truth in Television.
  • Man on Fire: One of the soldiers burning bodies goes crazy. He gets torched with a flamethrower. Also a priest goes mad and imitates a certain Buddhist monk.
  • Magical Antibiotics: The military gives its soldiers and doctors antibiotics aka antibacterial substances to defend themselves from the Trixie virus. That said, Judy still gets infected despite the antibiotic injection, so it is at least accurate in that respect.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Kathy just gives a quiet "Oh" after being fatally shot.
  • Militaries Are Useless: Because Armies Are Evil and plagued with severe amounts of obstructive protocols, which people adhere to even when they make things worse.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Averted — well it was The '70s!
  • Ms. Fanservice: Judy gets a Sideboob scene and then walks around in her underwear for a minute before her first scene is half over.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Artie after realizing he's had sex with his own daughter. He goes and hangs himself (assuming Clank didn't kill him).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The doctor Judy works for warns her to flee and gives her some medicine to use against the virus. This action is well-meant but breaks down trust and communication between the police and civilians even more in the short term, and Judy gets killed, when she might have survived in quarantine.
  • No Name Given: The lab technician prominently seen assisting Watts is never named.
  • Nuke 'em: A SAC bomber is kept on permanent patrol above the town, though it's never actually used.
  • Papa Wolf: Subverted. Artie is too scared to protect his daughter Kathy effectively, and ends up going crazy and having sex with her.
  • Pet the Dog: At one point during the rather rough round up of civilians, a soldier is seen starting to carry away a little girl, only to move back and let her pick up the stuffed animal she was whimpering for.
  • Please Wake Up: In the opening scene.
  • Plunder: Several soldiers are shown stealing abandoned property and, in one scene, stripping the dead of their valuables before burning the bodies.
  • Poor Communication Kills: A literal version of this trope; the officer originally sent to deal with the crashed plane wasn't told he's dealing with a bioweapon, so treated it as a routine clean-up job to be handled discreetly. The crisis team has to communicate through a voiceprint security system that delays communication. The media blackout means that the townspeople end up fighting the military, because they don't understand what's happening or that they shouldn't drink the water. Dr. Watts rushes out without telling the technician working with him how he found the cure.
  • Quarantine with Extreme Prejudice: Both versions of the film showcase the military cordoning off the town and then killing first anybody trying to leave, and then everybody inside, in the attempt to contain The Virus.
  • Raster Vision: Used for a Video Phone showing only the back of the President's head.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Dr. Watts is killed and the cure smashed in a fight between soldiers (who assume Watts is infected and try to force him into a quarantined area) and the infected. Trixie already spread beyond the town before the events of the film and infected a city. David, who is The Immune, keeps silent about his immunity out of spite. However, the scientists did find a rhesus monkey immune to Trixie, and it is likely the scientists can figure out a cure if they study Watts' experimentation or if David finally decides to reveal his immunity.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    Dr. Watts: It just astonishes me how shoddy this whole operation is.
    Col. Peckhem: Nothing astonishes me anymore.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Colonel Peckem and Major Ryder, who enforce the Quarantine with Extreme Prejudice, are intelligent, decent men trying to keep the awful situation they have been forced into without any preparation from turning worse. They try to cut the local authorities some slack early on, work hard to round up the infected townspeople without killing any more of them than necessary, show contempt for the original creation of the bio-weapon, and try to give Dr. Watts the equipment he needs to look for a cure.
  • Red Shirt Army: Justified; the soldiers are wearing white Hazmat Suits that restrict their vision and makes them stand out in the woods. They're also rear echelon troops (from a chemical warfare unit) who are conflicted about killing people and are fighting Clank, a Vietnam veteran whose exposure to Trixie is making him Ax-Crazy.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Pretty much every problem that could have been prevented in this crisis goes to shit because of a lack of communication between all of the parties that are each integral to doing so, going from the military not telling the townsfolk, local law enforcement and emergency services why their town is being quarantined and their populace rounded up like cattle, to bringing Dr. Watts into the danger zone with no means of collecting samples or developing a cure and so on.
  • Science Is Bad: Discussed between Colonel Peckhem and Dr. Watts. Peckhem accuses Watts and his fellow scientists of (incorrectly) assuring the military that the Trixie virus was 100% benign; Watts counters that the actual figure was a bit less than that — based on standards set by the military.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: This movie is one to George Romero's more famous Living Dead Series even if it predates almost all of the Living Dead movies. For one, the Crazies are people infected by a virus whereas the Living Dead zombies have an ambiguously supernatural origin. Furthermore, while the Crazies slowly lose their minds and become insane, the Living Dead zombies are capable of regaining their former personalities and thereby can act more lucidly.
  • Stepford Smiler: One of the symptoms.
  • Technically-Living Zombie: The Crazies are living people infected by the Trixie Virus. Upon acquiring the virus, the infected gradually become mentally unstable with most turning homicidally insane.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Clank slowly realizes that he is infected after David calls out his deranged behavior.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: The government's codename for their devastating bacteriological weapon is Trixie.
  • Trigger-Happy: Clank after becoming infected. Not the soldiers contrary to what some viewers think; they lose several people trying to talk armed civilians into putting down their weapons.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The titular Crazies are an early example of Technically Living Zombies/Plague Zombies, but they subvert or deconstruct the usual characteristics associated with the modern versions.
    • The Trixie virus itself plays with the idea of a Hate Plague. Most people infected by Trixie turn into homicidal killers, but some of the Crazies merely regress in intellectual maturity and don't violently lash out.
    • A common criticism of infected zombies, especially the ones inflicted with the Hate Plague, is how they solely attack healthy humans but conveniently never turn on one another. A general Hand Wave is that the virus gives the zombies the instinct to not attack each other, but in any case, none of this applies to the Crazies, who themselves have no qualms in attacking and killing fellow Crazies. Additionally, the Crazies still retain their former personalities and motives, so they will ally with close friends, even those that are healthy individuals. Most importantly, the Crazies are unaware that they themselves are infected since the Trixie Virus is a Mind Virus that solely affects the target's mental capacities.
    • The Crazies may lose their mental stability, but like George Romero's other better-known zombies, they are still smart enough to utilize firearms and other tools. This can be ironic considering that the modern infected zombies are supposed to be a more scientifically-accurate take on Romero's Living Dead zombies yet act more like berserkers whose main advantage is athleticism rather than human intelligence.
    • Plague Zombies normally suffer from very visible symptoms such as abnormal hemorrhages and skin lesions, allowing one to differentiate the infected from the uninfected without needing some kind of diagnostic test. In contrast, the Crazies look no different from the uninfected, which proves to be a problem for the government. The general rule of thumb is that anyone behaving irrationally is a Crazy, but as pointed out by Dr. Watts, healthy people can behave irrationally as well, resulting in multiple false positives since the townsfolk, infected or not, aren't happy with the military presence and retaliate violently as a result.
    • Most zombie viruses are contact-based diseases to justify why the zombies have to bite or scratch their victims to spread the infection. Trixie, on the other hand, relies on waterborne and airborne transmission to spread; therefore, none of the Crazies act like the stereotypical biting zombie because they don't need physical contact to infect the healthy. This plays a part in the ending. David's survivor group falls apart because the contaminated water supply gave most, if not all, of them the virus, and the airborne transmission means that they were endangering the healthy members by sticking together. In addition, Trixie manages to spread from Pennsylvania to Kentucky despite the quarantine. While the scientists suspect that someone sneaked past the security and inadvertently brought the virus to Kentucky, it is equally likely that Trixie spread to Kentucky through various wind/water currents.
    • The movie also has a Deconstructed Character Archetype of The Immune. David may be immune to the Trixie Virus, but none of his friends are, which leaves him the last man standing after the soldiers kill off his infected companions. This leads to him keeping his immunity a secret out of contempt.
  • Video Phone: A video link is set up with the President of the United States so he can, if required, authorize the use of nuclear weapons to contain the virus. However, as the President spends the entire conversation sitting with his back to the camera, one wonders why George Romero didn't just have him talking over a telephone speaker.
  • Your Head Asplode: Happens to a Gas Mask Mook.
  • Zombie Infectee: Averted. Most of the Crazies don't recognize anything wrong in their altered thinking, so they don't know that they are actually infected.