Tuesday, 11 June 2013

I Feel the Need to Purge Too [Spoiler level: Moderate]

The Purge became a massive hit in the US upon release, earning its budget back a tenfold in the opening weekend alone. Add that to the immense potential for a sequel/prequel discussed in my previous blog post it was all but certain that a sequel would come about, and indeed Blumhouse (the production house behind The Purge) announced today that "The Purge 2 is in development".

Blumhouse's other hits include Paranormal Activity and Sinister, they specialise in low-budget horrors. I haven't seen too many of their previous films, but from glancing at their filmography they surly have created a recognisable bunch of titles. Whether the titles are good or not is a completely different issue, but I can't really say my hopes are up for a decent Purge follow-up. Blumhouse's brand is cheap, profitable horror flicks that appeal to a wide audience, that that most likely means that The Purge 2 will be more or less the same as its predecessor just dealing with different victims and different attackers. After all, this premise is what made all that money in the first place, it's unlikely that anyone would change a winning formula too much.

Slashfilm has a slightly different approach to what they want, but maybe a more feasible and possible one. They note that the original doesn't really use its premise for all it's worth, and now that the world is set (at least to a degree) they can explore a lot more in-depth the craziness of it all. After all, it seems kind of weird that on a night where everything is allowed that a mere murder is the most exciting event. I've seen it pointed out several places that more long-term financial gain crimes are likely to be very interesting this night. Imagine a heist film, but with the fact that everyone you see around you is out to kill hanging over you. It'd put a whole different level on it all. Now, I should say that the original film did talk about some exceptions to the "everything is allowed" night. For example only weapons up to a certain class were allowed - probably stopping people from nuking each other - and certain government officials were immune, meaning they couldn't be the victim of attacks. Still, within all of that loose room there is a lot of interesting scenarios waiting to happen, scenarios similar enough to the first film to draw the same crowd, but different enough to draw a new one. 

I still think a more political prequel would be the most interesting. Showing the landscape of both the USA as a nation and its place in the global community. At the very least, show us more about the New Founding Fathers. How they get elected, how they proposed the idea of the purge successfully. It can't have been that easy, I refuse to believe that everyone were on-board with this idea. I'm normally not big on origin stories, but this one would be too good to let go. If it can't happen in the second film, I hope the franchise is successful enough to that after it's killed itself with a few repetitive sequels it takes one last chance and tells us this story.

I hope Blumhouse doesn't play it too safe with this follow-up, I really think they can make a mighty interesting film if they just try hard enough. Don't fall into the traps that so many do and pump out the same film over and over again. You have a really cool and original enough concept here, don't let it go stale.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Purge and the Land of the Free [Spoiler warning: High]

When I first saw the trailer for The Purge I was terrified, it was the first film trailer that ever scared me, but it was no events depicted that disturbed me. It was the very notion that in some weird alternate reality this actually happened.

As much as the man in the man in the spooky mask above is meant to scare me, it just doesn't work. It's just man in a weird-looking mask, but the symbol that is the man scares me. Because I know what "the purge" is, and that man represents the horrifying event it is. For those of you not aware, "the purge" is the name of the one night a year where everything is allowed. The police hang up their badges and go home, the people are left to fend for themselves against the people who very much want to take part of "the purge". In the film's universe the purge is meant to allow people to let out steam, after all we're a very violent species, just look at war and general street violence. If people were allowed to just do what ever they wanted for twelve hours every year then that will help them contain themselves.

Now, to be clear, I do not think that this is something that could ever possible happen, but the fact that it has happened in this film's world is enough to terrify me. That a nation could really get behind this crazy idea of death and mayhem is beyond me. In the film itself they lay some doubt around the purge, mainly that it isn't meant to quench people's lust for blood at all, but rather to exterminate the lower classes who can't afford the defences that the rich can. This is shrugged off simply as "oh well, people have different opinions, that's what makes this country so great". That line right there is probably the best line of the film. The way it's delivered (on radio, so we never even get to see the guy) is so casual and by-the-way that it sounds like they're discussing whether Batman or Iron Man is the better superhero. They're talking about, what sounds to be, hundred and thousands of people's lives. We never get estimates on how many are killed each year, but we're told that thousands of people in single cities alone are out "purging themselves". Everyone from the crazy homeless man down the street to the respectable business owner next door are involved, and you can never really trust anyone. Imagine that a world where you can't trust anyone, right now we live in a world where trust is a scarce resource, how much would be lost if you knew anyone around you could kill you without facing any sort of communal consequence.

People in this film are really behind the idea of the purge, they fully support it and believes it lowers crime rates and unemployment as well as it boosts the economy. There really hasn't been anything to prove it a bad thing (part from the murdering of thousand of innocent people, but that apparently doesn't count). In this film we follow the Sandin family, an ordinary upper-class family who's made a living selling purge security systems to the wealthy. The parents James and Mary couldn't be more behind the idea of the purge, they talk about how horrible it was before the new founding fathers instituted the purge. Given their apparent age they were born in the early eighties (the film is set in 2022), meaning that either they think that what we have right now is much more horrible than what the purge brings or things are about to get much worse. The fact that people of -basically- my generation can get these thoughts horrify me, how much government manipulation do you need to brainwash such a huge chunk of the population as to get through with it?

The Sandins aren't expecting anything special on the night of the purge, they have their own high-tech security system (i.e. some heavy blinds that come down on the outside of their windows and doors), but when their guilt-ridden son (Charlie) sees a wounded man running around their neighbourhood screaming for help he disarms the house and lets him in. Naturally the rest of the family freaks out when the blinds open and run to close them yet again, but not before the wounded man (aptly credited as "bloody stranger" (whether that's to mean a stranger covered in blood or just a damn stranger is still under debate)). The family now has a man they know nothing about in their house and they fear the worst. Not long after a team of teenagers walk around the neighbourhood, shooting into the air and knocking on doors. They shortly arrive at the Sandin's house where they demand they let the bloody stranger out so they can purge themselves.

The family have no clue where the man is, he sort of just ran in and went into hiding straight away, so a small manhunt around the house is put into action as the nice teenagers outside promise to kill everyone in the house if the damn stranger isn't released before their back-up arrive.

This is more or less the remainder of the film, people running around in a house looking for a man they don't know so they can throw him out to the wolves to be murdered. Or it would've been, if the writers hadn't decided to let the characters actually be sensible. The family realises what their son knew all along, what is life worth living if you're going to let countless others die for you? They decide to fight and defend their home. Unfortunately it doesn't transform into Home Alone 17 at this point, but we do get to see teenagers being killed with pinball machines and fire axes. The family manages pretty well, until the father is stabbed and killed, and the mother gets captured without almost any sort of fighting back (even the ten-year old son managed to shoot off a few rounds (yes, a ten-year old with a gun) when he first got captured, for crying out loud!) and they all crawl to the middle of their house where they all gather together. Apparently there aren't anymore teenagers left, but they forgot to tell us, because they're taking things with an awful amount of calm. Then, of course, the classing moment where one last teenagers shows up only to be shot to death by the daughter. It's a real cop-out ending, but don't worry, the writers have decided to "surprise us". Having the weird neighbours pop up wanting to kill the family might sound like an actual twist ending, but when you watch the film it makes a lot more sense than it should, somehow. Anyhow, the father is now dead so they decide to just kill the mother and two children. And now they cop-out of the ending again with having the mysterious blood-covered man show up and hold the weird neighbours at gunpoint. Making them release the family and go away.

The neighbours then of course want to be killed, after all the family needs to purge themselves, but they're the good guys so they just don't. Because it's actually not a good thing to kill people, even though they've just killed a bunch of teenagers and thousands more are being killed as they speak. They wait out the night, and the neighbours leave. Yup. Uhm. It sort of just ends there. Before any kind of climax occurs. Three really weird ending right after each other.

Good news, though, the film gets slightly interesting again when the credits starts rolling. We get to hear people talk about this year's purge and how well-attended it was. Two hundred people ran around the town square in Denver killing people, apparently. And one person said: "I lost my two sons tonight. I used to be proud to be American, but not anymore. America took everything I had." And with that bombshell, the film is over. It's bad to kill people, blah blah blah.

It's a shame that a film with such a terrifying premise does so little with it. It was spooky and creepy before anything happened, but the second the family was actually attacked it just turned into a subpar action film with unusual killers. I would actually like a sequel of sorts to this film, but not just another film about a family in a safehouse, I'd like a film pursuing how the international community answers to the USA's new weird ways. It's a rather radical change from what the USA is today, and I doubt many other countries would follow suit. Imagine a film where the USA does this, but at the consequence of losing nearly all of their current allies. Maybe they make some new oddly paired allies who actually approve of this way, some country that at the moment has little to no interaction with the western world. All I can see in my head right now is a televised debate between world leaders where the British, French, German or maybe even Norwegian political leader straight out asks "what the hell is wrong with you?" in the USA's direction. Yes, I want a sequel. And its title shall be "The Purge and the Land of the Free".