Sure, George Romero’s early films often had sociopolitical aspects that you could chew on, but were any of them really ‘message movies?’ Except for Monkey Shines, which is obviously a highly partisan screed about the Americans With Disabilities Act. Anyway, while The Crazies can give you something to chat about with friends afterwards, I never considered it all that much of a call to action.
But the new one is! At least according to Participant Media, one of the film’s producers. Participant is a very cool production company that started up with the premise of creating entertainment that also had a social meaning and could be tied into existing political action campaigns. You’ve seen their logo pop up in front of movies like Syriana, Food Inc, An Inconvenient Truth, Good Night and Good Luck and even The Soloist.
So what the heck are they doing involved with The Crazies? I guess part of it is business – your well-meaning upper crust leftie movies probably don’t make that much money in the long run. And you’re preaching to the choir – one of my problems with Food Inc is that it’s a movie aimed at people who are already really concerned about their food and the environment. But the audience for The Crazies is likely not the same audience that goes to the immigration drama The Visitor. And maybe Participant can get these audiences – young, mainstream people – interested in a big issue.
The issue that they’re focusing on is chemical waste, which is actually pretty scary, and sort of everywhere. A quick web search can show you the kinds of chemical waste and Superfund sites that are near your home, and the shit that’s getting into our groundwater and air is terrifying. It’s a natural byproduct of our modern lives, but it’s something people don’t like talking about.
Still: The Crazies! When I was working in the activism field I tried to find pop culture items that I could tie into our current campaigns. It makes the issues more immediate and understandable for people. But as terrible as the threat of chemical waste is, tying a campaign about it into a movie where chemical waste makes people into unstoppable killing machines might be a little bit… over the top. There’s a real danger of looking like you’re overreacting and making the whole issue silly.
Nick visited the set of The Crazies and I’m curious if there was any talk of a political or environmental message at the time, or if Participant came on later.
By the way, Participant is also involved in Furry Vengeance, the movie that has Brendan Fraser as a land developer being comically attacked by animals. Again, I get it, and I kind of appreciate what they’re doing, but tying action items into a movie where a squirrel keeps biting Brendan Fraser feels a touch weird to me.
Check out Participant’s website for The Crazies where they tie this remake into bigger issues.
Thanks to Allison Willmore, whose Twitter feed alerted me to that page.