The Purge (2013)
Director(s): James DeMonaco
Writer(s): James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield
Politics and Horror?!? No, I’m not talking about our current, polarizing election year (ZING to the candidate that you support), rather, I speak of the relationship between horror movies and politics that have been showcased in some of its most prominent movies. Politics can be thoroughly seen through any art form but I suppose horror movies are a special in the sense that the political messages are wrapped in ultra – violent entertainment. I remember watching Night of the Living Dead for the first time as a child and thinking halfway into the movie that there seems to be a lot of “mean” people giving the black guy a hard time throughout the flick. The ending itself (SPOILER ALERT) where the hero makes it through the end of the flick…only to be gunned down by the police through what I concluded was a nod to racial profiling, made me realize that although I enjoyed one of the most legendary horror flicks in the genre but there was a message in the story that didn’t feel forced but more like a parallel with the storyline that made you think about the political and cultural climate that was present when this movie first came out with the intention to scare audiences.
Whether or not you agree with the politics is a moot point; not the point of this FEARtastic platform; but as a horror fan (maybe fanatic), I have to appreciate the political nods that some of the creators of these movies try to portray, because what better way to convey a message through bloody goodness? Comedy is the obvious choice for political messages through entertainment but horror flicks seem to be an extreme that I find amusing and fascinating at the same time. The idea of watching people get eaten, butchered and tormented under the backdrop of a message is pretty hilarious to me and more importantly, as I point out most of the time for these entries, ENTERTAINING. One of the most recent installment of politically –toned entries is the sleeper hit, The Purge.
At first glance, one could write off this movie as one of your typical home invasion horror flicks that have been very popular throughout the recent years – and you’d be halfway correct. Pretty typical at face value; some creepy strangers walk up to a house and terrorize the people inside, pretty typical right? Sure, but then you put this movie into context based off the storyline. This movie centers around the idea that in an alternate America in the near future, a law is passed where for once a year, all crime is legalized for 12 hours. Of course, murder seems to be the first thing on everyone’s mind but what is fascinating about this premise is the idea that IT WORKS. There’s a great segment in the beginning of the movie that lays out the plot then proceeds in telling you why it’s important why such law is now seen as necessary; crime is down dramatically and most people seem pleasant because they have one night a year where they can let out all their secret (or not so secret) aggressions through the natural instinct of brutal violence. Another aspect is how we see our authority figures because, of course in this America, government officials are exempt from the Purge which makes you realize that this world is that of hypocrisy most if not all people can agree with in our current political system, regardless of political party affiliation.
So if we accept this world where crime being acceptable for one night a year is a GOOD thing then what are the ramifications? Enter our main character James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) who has made a good living in selling security equipment. One would naturally assume that the security industry would be BOOMING in a world where your neighbor can be allowed (and encouraged) to casually kill you one night a year. Where the political tones start to take focus is when you realize that this “better” world where Americans can quench their violent thirsts one night a year is targeting are the homeless and minorities, most notably, blacks. WHAT THE HECK? No way a movie would suggest this, right? Well, you have to remember that this is a fantasy world, an alternate America where Americans can kill who they want for one night a year and in this “fantasy” world, most Americans would target the homeless and black people.
The flick has James Sandin and his securing themselves in anticipation of the upcoming Purge when the sympathetic son of the family takes pity on a young black man escaping from a group that is legally allowed to hunt him down for the kill. Going against his better instinct, James lets the man stay but the hunting party that arrives at his household is yet another subtle nod to this alternate America; the group of killers are poster children of WASP culture, a bunch of preppy, privileged, wealthy Caucasians who just want to do their patriotic duty to have a fun and efficient purge by killing a black guy, to make the world better, right? Violence and suspense ensues throughout the movie while keeping the tone of how incredibly scary the political tones are if this world were to actually exist.
This is a movie that will definitely bring up some post – watch discussions that most likely will bring up some healthy arguments which is what a lot of great movies do and although this can be seen as a silly horror flick, if you’re having somewhat serious discussions of the kind of world this sort of movie represents, then I think this “simple” horror flick touched on more than you realize.
HOLY Smokes, we made to 30 entries! Thanks again to all you freaks who like/share/read/enjoy/support/somewhat support/tolerate the FearTASTIC Vault! You folks are gruesomely AWESOME and I appreciate you all!
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.