George Romero was a semi-hot commodity at the time. While the follow-up films, There’s Always Vanilla and Season of the Witch failed to make much of an impression, the amazing movie that started it all, his visionary Night of the Living Dead, was rapidly becoming a midnight screening phenomenon. Asked by a distributor if he had any other ‘good’ ideas, he showed around a script called The Mad People. A massive rewrite later (the executives only liked the first 10 pages of the screenplay) and Romero had his second certified hit. While similar in theme to his previous zombie masterwork, The Crazies proved conclusively that, even on a limited budget, the director could make an edge of your seat action thriller with just enough social commentary thrown in to wake up the maudlin masses.
At its heart, The Crazies is nothing more than a movie about civilization gone psychotic. It features government conspiracies, half-assed cover-ups (it came out right after Watergate, remember), abuses of power, unthinkable horrors, taboo breaking atrocities, the stereotypical clan of survivors, and enough editorial flare and moviemaking chutzpah to literally rewrite the rulebook on cinematic action. The lack of funds seems to have inspired Romero, his need to be fast, quick, and to the point illustrated in almost every sequence onscreen. There are times when one angle just won’t do. People often exchange mere exposition within a five of six shot collection of clips. It’s as if Eisenstein went to the drive-in and came out with a tale of a small town and the experimental virus that drives the populace insane.