18 July 2018

Don't Look Back In Anger

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From the title, The First Purge, you could be forgiven for assuming that this movie might be a gritty drama about a young girl that discovers the joys of ramming her fingers down the back of her throat. But in actual fact it is of course the fourth instalment of The Purge series which began as a silly dystopian horror movie but at this point feels only a few weeks away from becoming a genuine national holiday. Within the world of the film, Purge Night is the one night every year in which all crime becomes legal and the American public decide to all go out on a killing spree. So kind of like America now but where the kids don't have to specifically be in school if they want to be shot at. Interestingly, the series has only ever really focused on the night being used for murder which is strange because it's not that killing people is tolerated for that one night but that literally every crime is. I know it makes for a more dramatic movie if everybody wants to murder each other but I honestly think that if Purge Night happened where I live then everybody would just start building a conservatory without planning permission, fly-tipping, and burning unwanted leaves in their stupid fucking gardens. 

Going back to the bulimia thing though, it's notable that by the fourth instalment of most horror franchises it really does feel like the writers have simply vomited into a type-writer and handed the paper in as “fucking done”. Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: Dream Master, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter are all terrifying movies but only because by the mid-way point you start yanking out your own pubic hair to stay awake. It's interesting therefore that the fourth instalment of this Purge franchise has decided to go back in time and give us a prequel to explain the origins of the night. Perhaps when the first film came out, this might have been a good idea due to the far-fetched nature of the set-up. However as things stand now it's pretty much a daily sight on the news to see a mob of racist piss-weasels waving their tiki torches in tribute to their dickless orange over-lord. In which case it's not so much that I don't want to see a film in which society is being duped into a Purge Night as it is that I worry that Trump will watch The First Purge and turn it into a reality faster than you can say “piss on a prostitute”.

Not that the film is unaware of this, of course. Regardless of your views on the quality of this franchise, you have to at least praise it for being full of ideas. Even if it then dismisses most of those ideas in favour of bland characters and generic action. In that vein, The First Purge is riddled with references to todays politics with at least one direct reference to a “Pussy Grabber motherfucker”. In fact, what I'd say I like about this film is in it's central idea that the event was created as the Government's solution to an economic problem. Their assumption is that those from poorer areas will turn on each other and reduce the need for the country to financially support them once they've stabbed each other in the head. However, as the film shows, rather than fighting one another, the people at the bottom only really have each other to depend on and so end up rallying together as a community to survive the night. Most horror franchises tend to be quite conservative in which anybody who dares to have sex or take drugs becomes the prime target of the killer until only little Miss Boring-Bitch is left alive at the end. In which case I think The First Purge deserves credit for being a pretty liberal horror franchise in a time in which our real life political leaders are more cartoonishly evil than a film could believably present us with.

The problem with this movie, as mentioned, is more or less the exact same problem that the entire franchise has dealt with since the start. It sets up all of these interesting questions and concepts before ditching them in favour of a run of the mill action movie that seems to take itself seriously. At its best, The Purge is a blend of John Carpenter's Assault On Precinct 13 and Escape From New York but with the over the top and campy satire of They Live sprinkled throughout. However with almost every one of these films they ultimately put more focus on the shootings and explosions than they do any of the ideas. Other than this one-evening-a-year, it seems that society has more or less remained the same throughout but surely every aspect of our life would change? Would divorce even be a thing in this world or would married couples simply save themselves the cost of it by being nice all year until they can stab their unsuspecting partner in the throat? Fuck a film about the start of the very first Purge Night because ultimately that's going to be the exact same movie as the first three, but where people haven't spent as long on their neon-costumes. What I want is a film about the day after Purge Night in which you get into a fight with your neighbour because she kicked her husbands head over the fence again and now she wants it back. 

For a film that wants to tell the origins of this event, you'd also expect it to delve into the more primal side of our psyche. This film claims that we don't really want to kill each other which is why the Government ends up manipulating the situation so that we do. However as the previous trilogy of Purge films show, we clearly do have this violence dormant in us because of how successful the night ultimately becomes. Perhaps it would have been more interesting if this film had been a little like Straw Dogs in which we see the innocent Dustin Hoffman character turn into a man that's casually dropping bear traps onto peoples heads. Just look at me for example.. I would tell you that I hate violence and am about as left-wing as you can get, but if I'm at the cinema and somebody starts talking in front of me then I can't help but fantasise about jamming my thumb into the soft part of their stupid fucking skulls. Instead of this dissection of suppressed rage, we simply get a group of characters that you could probably murder on any day of the year and get away with because of how fucking forgettable they are. At one point in the movie, and at the moment in which it seems that they're all done for, one of them remembers that she has a huge fuck-off gun in her bag. I'd like to think that this was a moment of satire against the casualness in which American's are allowed to own firearms. But the reality is that I suspect it was just sloppy fucking writing. 

So overall I'd say that The First Purge was fine. It's not so terrible that you'll end up hating it but nor is it any different to any of the others for it to be hugely worth you seeing it. Somebody claiming this to be their favourite film ever would be like hearing somebody claim that a margarita pizza is their favourite food of all time. It's not that margarita pizza doesn't taste nice or anything, it's just that clearly that person is a fucking dullard. At four films, this franchise hasn't quite gone off the rails in the way that other horror franchises have, although it's really beginning to tread water with this one- and if I was a life-guard I think I might just let it get tired and drown. Unless of course they stop focusing exclusively on murder and start upping the black-comedy elements and investigating other genres with each sequel. Would I be excited for another film in which a forgettable gang of do-gooders attempt to avoid being killed by a group of well-lit pricks? Not really. But imagine an American Pie sequel in which Eugene Levy finally gets sick of eating food that his son has had his dick in and so starts baking decoy meals that are laced with acid. Or how about a movie like The Queen in which Helen Mirren plays Her Majesty as Charles hunts her down to take the crown whilst avoiding the Corgi's she trained to defend her? I'm just saying that there are other possibilities. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time. 

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