Thursday, July 14, 2016

Literally Apocalypse Now, or Thoughts on The Purge: Election Year

They keep making these crazy Twilight Zone-y dystopian alternate histories, and for some reason I keep watching them.  The Purge: Election Year (2016) continues its heavy-handed critique of the polarizing two-party system, corporate media and the growing disconnect between the government, big business and the people, whose only respite seems to be the catharsis of an annual free murder Halloween.  However these movies have gotten progressively better, in the narrow sense that the scenario and mythos surrounding this world and alternate Amerika with a K, is more defined and realized.  The Purge: Election Year even features the introduction of “murder tourists”, an ironic and humorless twist to the contemporary immigration debate.
And if all crimes are legal for a night, why aren’t there more lootings and bank robberies?  Why aren’t there more pyros setting everything on fire?  Also I don’t quite understand how this one tweak in our legal system could miraculously lower unemployment levels and bring about a massive economic shift but seriously, it’s best not to dwell on the details.  We as an audience are murder tourists in our own country, and the only way to appreciate this movie on any level is to strap in, praise god and pass the ammunition.
Elizabeth Mitchell, Juliet from Lost and Erica from the V remake stars as Senator Roan, a presidential candidate who opposes the Purge, so you immediately know she’s at risk and where this movie is going to go.  Frank Grillo from The Purge: Anarchy (2014) returns as the Senator’s head of security Leo Barnes.  It’s a smart casting move to follow Leo’s story, as Frank Grillo has a dark, comic book hero intensity and an action hero physical presence that was lacking in Ethan Hawke in The Purge (2013), and is perfect for this kind of movie.  
However nothing ever goes as planned on Purge Night, and a running theme through all three movies is you can’t trust anyone, except perhaps Mykelti Williamson from Forrest Gump (1994) and Justified as Joe, a hardworking storeowner who has to protect his property on Purge Night.  Leo and the Senator will also encounter Betty Gabriel in what is essentially her big screen debut as Laney Rucker, a lady EMT in an armored ambulance.
Written and Directed by the original Purge creator James DeMonaco, the writer of Skinwalkers, the theme of the entire trilogy is reminiscent of The Warriors (1979); all these people have to do is survive the night while battling various groups of theme-costumed psychopaths.   But it doesn’t have the fun of The Warriors, and it’s not as light-hearted or wild as, say, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) or any of the Road Warrior movies.  Instead it goes for the unrelenting dread and no exit strategy of The Walking Dead, but without the zombies.
The purge siren is genuinely terrifying, along with the scenes of guillotines in the street, and killers wearing carnival masks like the anarchists and Anonymous members at a black lives matter or an occupy something rally.  It’s another touchstone to ground us to our contemporary perception of reality; echoing the anarchy and civil unrest that we see nightly in the news.  The news media feeds these fears to sell ads and manipulate voters, and The Purge: Election Year feeds those same fears to sell popcorn and diet cokes.



my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.