Jul, 2014. Posted, in memory of George Romero, d., Jul 16, 2017.
One gets a slightly more nuanced view in terms of measuring George Romero’s grasp of the conventions of modern horror when it came to instrumentalizating household furnishings to signal emotions and hauntings in looking at a scene or two in his 1973 movie The Crazies.
There are a few incidental moments, when Romero offers a glimmer of awareness of relations between spaces and bodies. In the opening sequence, one might say that he was aware of how wood panelling in those days signalled domestic space where the nude female body became the norm presiding, this is no big deal modern intimate couple nudity
He also clearly knew that generic landscapes bespoke something bad coming from outside, and they served that simple signalling purpose in the offices of the scientists,
The fact that a map has been put up in space formerly occupied by one of those landscapes, put down on the floor, on its side, signals crisis as well as chaos
There is also a little business making an icon of craziness by a too intense interpretation of Jesus dying for us
By the priest (and, again, I think this Romero postering a comment from the news, the monk who burned himself in protest in Vietnam, onto the movie) burning himself up for us
But all of these are so stilled by a desire to comment, and made to poster a moment with a film still moment, that one wonders, is he making a movie, or making comments on the USA
In fact, only once in this movie does Romero instrumentalize the elements of traditional horror to signal that something wrong is happening. This is when the hippies escape to a house, and lay low for a while. The husband stands guard in the room below, while dad looks after his daugher, played by Lynn Lowry, who is already infected and going mad, upstairs: and he does it, casually, by lying on the bed with her, and letting her sleep. But right away there is some odd business. We get a view out of a window, separating inside from outside, signalling danger without, and extraordinary times
Then we get a shot of the classic old photo WASP American gothic proprietor of this kind of country house, and it is the haunted portrait, upstanding citizen before the invasion and disease started.
But then as the man below is guarding, he begins to see that there are some odd elements around the room. He comes upon a very curious device. It is a silver cup, turned on its side, but fit with a plastic ping-pong size ball on a string, that can bounce from inside to outside, along the reflective surface of the interior of the cup. This means that when the ball recedes in, it is reflected, and he sees himself, and the room, upside down, reflected
But then when it magically comes up through the reflective membrane, imagined as a series of rings of silver thickness and situatedness in the cup from bottom to top, the ball, surprising, is reflected more, and fans out on other reflections
And then can pop to completely filling the space
This amazing little device, and notice that the smiling ceramic cup is a trickster, the opposite of the staid All American gent (FDR, I think?), is a multilateral reflective device symbolic of the wormhole. That is, we are going down the wormhole into dream state, into crazy time, in the movie. (The truly odd thing about this is that about a week ago I cleared out my bathroom waste basket and looking at it empty I noticed that as you looked into it from closer to higher above it, all of its intramural multilateral reflective relations switched all around so that it looked like the thing was coming up from within the center of itself, then folding its center back down in itself, like the traditional wormhole stairway in horror movies. This to me was a symbol of incalculable multilateral reflective relations, forming the spiderweb that when pulled becomes the wormhole leading to deep dream. For Romero, this is the EXACT parallel to the music box that Barbara comes in contact with, and seeks comfort in, as she seems to lose her mind (Romero does like not-there girls), in Night.
Now, I noted in my short treatment of Night of the Living Dead, that Romero also liked to alarm-signal mad moments. In Night, he did that by way of the score, especially in her shocking encounter with the taxidermy. But here, he signals it by having the man unaccountably ring a bell
And it is during the ringing of this bell, that the father, becoming mad from the virus, needs to twist the relations all up, and he sexually assaults his daughter. Because on a level beyond her being his daughter, but just being a woman, of a certain relational character, she has always been to him too the unapproachable hippie nympho siren, ethereal, but hiding much, and then destructive in her making you want her in that way. And so, mad, at long last, he gets a hand where he has always wanted one
At this point, I suppose Romero, according to the rules of modern film making, knew that he had to signal to the audience that something destructive of the family was taking place here. As a result, he has placed a small cameo size haunted potrait of a womanfolk up on the wall, at the edge of the bed. It is amazingly within reach of Lowry, who reaches up against her attack, in a kind of protest, perhaps groping for some weapon, At first we see her hand feel for the picture, but also almost but presenting it, as if defending family value
But then as the assault continues, and one cant tell if this was caused by the push of his assault, or her simply batting it away, her hand clenches, and knocks the picture
And then, as it is knocked away, symbolizing the destruction of family value, of a violation of the meaning of family portraits as carriers of family tree, her hand oddly seems to resolve into a resigned waver
In addition to the symbolism of the picture as indicating family tree, and family tree undone by incest; it is also true that in so far as it is a standard old woman, though it looks to me like 17th century, and possibly of Spanish origin, it remains part of a general genre of picture I term a Mary Shelley portrait, which signifies that a monster is in the house. The thing is, in this scene, the monster is both her father and her, both crazy, both reacting to events “crazies-ly.”
And then, twisting this scene, as we return from symbolism to the act, we see that as he has now entered her, and is bluntly, if not so pleasurably, forcing himself on and into her, she has succumbed, and has decided to lie back and enjoy it and take it for what it is, and—that is because she is mad. In these scene, that moment so desired by any exploiter of young woman, sex itself takes over, it becomes a mere physical event, overriding all, and she gives in
Then, after the dad is pulled off by the guardian, and knocked out into the hall, the bannister signifying prison
She sits forlorn but resigned on the bed, and notes that she has blood between her legs. Which means that anotehr reason that she simply took it and got into it was that she was still a virgin, all the men who thought she was so pure were right, she was, a virgin
Then, with that look of oh well mischievousness on her face, she looks outside, blood on her lip, part of life
Then Romero again marshalls her apparent innocence to send her out against the hazmat suited men, with her long hippie hair, represensting sireness, seductiveness, dreamy ethereal purity seduction
but then she spins things too far for them, they come to see she is crazy, they know she is infected, and they shoot her, she goes Oh!, and falls, that’s it for her, and all the complications, most of them positive, she brought to the movie. In the person of Lynn Lowry, therefore, George Romero in The Crazies does demonstrate some serious instrumentation of the concept of the haunted portrait to signify incestuous rape as a destruction of family and America.