Friday, June 7, 2013

The Purge Has Come And Went ~ Are We Any Better For It?

The Purge ~ The Crime Is at an all-time low | A Constantly Racing Mind

Release the Beast

A good classic horror story has several elements, and one of those is suspense.  "The Purge" does that part well.  Suppose for one moment, that the United States, in a not too distant future, has voted in a new political party called the New Founding Fathers of America.  Let’s also suppose that this political party promises 1% unemployment, an economy where those who work hard are rewarded.

What if, in order to maintain this Pax Americana, the price is total control over all forms of crime?  All those convicted of any crime are subject to severe punishment.  What if the government, in its understanding of human nature realizes that society under these conditions need a release valve?  What would this valve be and do?  Well, for one, it would release all the pent up anger, hate, and general disgust that most humans have for their fellow man.  That is the premise of Blumhouse productions new horror film called "The Purge.”  The film stars Ethan Hawke ("Sinister," "Daybreakers") and Lena Headey ("Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ") as a seemingly normal suburban husband and wife, father and mother of two teenage children.  Life is good, and tonight is like any other night except that tonight is The Purge.

The Purge ~ Beware Your Neighbors | A Constantly Racing Mind
I like films about dystopian futures, especially if they start out as some sort of seemingly Utopia that devolves into some sort of Shirley Jackson "The Lottery" type of messed up world.  In "The Purge," the Democratic Republic is gone, the year is 2022, and the New Founding Fathers of America, are now in power and have turned the United States into a strictly enforced martial law civilization.  It is now a self-regulated Darwinian government that culls out the weak and socially unwanted.  The concept in itself is intriguing, the social relevance in today's world has possibilities, or perhaps not?   
"Blessed be the Founding Fathers, let us Purge"
Director James DeMonaco, the writer of 2005's "Assault on Precinct 13," has the potential to deliver a socially political film about class structure and class warfare. However, instead he decides not to take this film to its next logical step, but rather turn "The Purge" into a film about blood, gore, and survival without prejudice.  

Setting up the environment through the world of the future where Purge Cameras monitor beatings, stabbings, gun battles in the streets,  he then contrasts this with an idyllic world, peaceful, orderly, and seemingly perfect. James Sandin (Hawke) and his wife Mary (Headey), 
sit down for the family meal, only we see instead a somewhat dysfunctional family. 

In today's society, we play sports  to release all the energy we build up.  We go to action and horror films for the same reasons.  What if, we took that catharsis just one-step further and released our anger on those we can't stand, those we hate, and those we find undeserving of life? James and Mary reiterate for the sake of their children and the audience, the virtues of The Purge.  As the time approaches, mild mannered James activates his security system and he and his family plan to wait out the carnage that occurs outside, while enjoying the comforts of his nicely decorated, mansion. 

One question that director DeMonaco asks, but doesn't quite answer is, what if we tolerate The Purge, but we don't actively pparticipate? From 7 pm to 7 am, all citizens are permitted to do violence upon one another.
"Let  us violate, annihilate, and cleanse our souls" 
At this point, I must comment on the subject of children.  Children in modern film are not typically the sweet Shirley Temple types anymore.  In today's film, we see kids disobeying their parents and causing interesting plot conflicts.  In this case, Zoey, portrayed by Adelaide Kane ("Pretty Tough") has the usual teen issues, boredom, and boyfriend (Tony Oller) issues.  On the other hand, Charlie played by Max Burkholder ("Daddy Day Care"), questions the morality of The Purge.  He also questions his parent’s culpability as well.  During the night, while monitoring the situation, safe inside his family’s home, Charlie sees a beaten man running for his life.  Pleading for help, Charlie opens his house to this man.  Listed in the credits only as the Bloody Stranger, Edwin Hodge ("Red Dawn") is more of a set piece, a catalyst, rather than a full character.

The Purge ~ Rhys Wakefield | A Constantly Racing Mind

Rhys Wakefield ("Sanctum") almost steals the show as the sharply dressed, ultra-polite, and exceedingly unnerving stranger who like the men of ancient Sodom, knocking on Lot's door, informs the Sandins exactly what they can expect if they don't comply with his demands of releasing the stranger.  Unlike the story of Lot and his family, there are no angels there to protect and guide the Sandins to safety.  James, who gives off the nerdy businessman vibe, steps up to the plate when his family's life is at stake.  As the film progresses, the director films from a more casual sense of personal space, and as the night evolves and the terror rises moves the camera in closer to give a heightened sense of tension and claustrophobia, which at times can be disturbing.  The music is typical and sets the mood perfectly, but ultimately unmemorable.

The Purge ~ Ethan Hawke Defending His Family | A Constantly Racing Mind

Like the film, Hawke's character James, devolves into the animal that DeMonaco wants to show us that we all really are.  Overall, the moral question remains, who has the right to decide whom lives and who dies?  Although director DeMonaco builds up the tension, I don't think he gives enough time to let the audience get to know the characters, and explore the social and political concepts of The Purge fully.  This may be due to his understanding that the horror going audience's attention span is quite short. In this, I think he is mistaken.  "The Purge" runs less than an hour and a half, and brings up interesting questions, shows a glimpse of the dark side of ourselves, and then slams the door on us just a bit too quickly.

Have A Safe Night

Movie Data

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Year:  2013
Staring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey
Director: James DeMonaco
Producer(s): Michael Bay,Jason Blum,Andrew Form,Bradley Fuller,Sebastien Lemercier
Writer: James DeMonaco
Rating: R
Running Time: 85 minutes
Release Date: 6/7/2013

The Purge ~ Survive The Night | A Constantly Racing Mind

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