The Way We Get By: Scott Lucas of Local H is Hunkering Down with George Romero

In particular the horror director’s underseen 1973 film The Crazies.

Most of us are sequestered in our homes, doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. That includes some of our favorite artists, so we’re asking them to tell us about one thing — a book, a movie, a record, whatever — that’s helping them get through this difficult time.

I’m not doing too bad so far. I don’t know at what point that will change. For now, I’m doing probably better than some and maybe not as good as others.

Is it comforting to watch a bunch of movies about zombies and the breakdown of civilization? I don’t know. But I’ve been watching these movies since I was a little kid, and there’s something about them… I always knew something like this was going to happen, so to go back to these movies, you go, “Oh yeah. This was always going to be something that would happen somehow or another.”

Romero’s Dead movies, when you combine them with The Crazies, from 1973 — he almost called everything. This idea of liberty that we have, that can be so easily destroyed and smashed, and suddenly we’re all just prisoners. All this kind of stuff he was really good at touching on. Even on shoestring budgets; there’s always something going on in his movies.

The Crazies is sort of like a spiritual sequel to Night of the Living Dead. There’s this disease that makes everybody go crazy. You don’t turn into a zombie but you do start having sex with your daughter, killing your kids, killing your wife, burning your house down. They call in the government to lock down this city in Pennsylvania that it’s happening in. The iconic image from this movie is not zombies, it’s these guys in haz-mat suits coming in and just shooting the inhabitants of this town. So you’ve got this point where you’re trying to figure out — even more than in the zombie movies — who the good guys are. It’s basically the Civil War between the citizens and the government, and the government is the scarier-looking one because they’re in the haz-mat suits. But at the same time, you’ve got these people in the government who are trying to find a cure. 

And then the citizens, half of them are crazy and doing insane stuff. You’ve got these Vietnam vets who are trying to keep their heads. It’s a really complex movie. I think that was the first thing that I watched when all this stuff started going down. George Romero does not do happy endings. There’s a lot of stuff in this movie that he would go all-in on a few years later, with Dawn of the Dead in 1978. But there’s something about The Crazies that’s just him maybe at his most complex. You just cannot figure out who to root for. And that’s kind of the point. It’s not black and white. It’s still super violent and it’s an exploitation movie, but there’s a lot going on. It’s almost like the bridge between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Dawn of The Dead is just the complete and utter breakdown of civilization. None of it gets as bad as it is until Day of the Dead, from 1985. At that point, the last remaining humans have to go underground. We don’t want to get there yet.

There’s still a fantasy element. It could definitely be worse right now in the real world. Even some other movies you think of now, like Contagion. I’d never heard the term social distancing until this started, but I had seen Contagion, so apparently I had heard that term — they use it in that movie, and I just hadn’t paid attention to it. It’s not as comforting as a George Romero movie.

The coronavirus has hit many people financially, and it’s been especially tough on musicians who rely on touring to support themselves. If you’re able and inclined, check out Local H’s Bandcamp and order a T-shirt, some vinyl, or whatever they’ve got on offer. Their latest album, Lifers, comes out April 10.

Featuring contributions by an array of respected friends and guests — including Juliana Hatfield, John McCauley of Deer Tick, and legendary rock engineer Steve AlbiniLIFERS is the first album from Local H in five years, and the release coincides with the group’s 30 year anniversary (and our collective doom). LIFERS is out now on all DSP’s AntiFragile Music. Physical Orders of the album are available here.