Why ‘THE PURGE: ANARCHY’ is the Most Important Horror Film of 2014

After watching THE PURGE: ANARCHY last week, I knew that I wanted to write something about the film and its commentary on today’s society.  I knew that to properly explain myself, I should probably re-watch the film now that I knew what was going to happen and could really zone my focus in on the social situations.  About halfway through the OUIJA trailer, an older white couple sat in the row behind me, a few seats to my right.  Now that I didn’t have the theatre to myself, I was polite and put away my cell phone (I was going to take notes since I was alone) before the start of the film.  I like to think that I’m a rather easy-going theatregoer.  If people audibly respond to what’s happening on screen, I can easily tune it out and focus on the film at hand.  However, I could hear the increasingly louder breaths of frustration from the older couple as the film progressed.  With about 15 minutes left to spare until the credits roll, one of the more climactic events occurred that solidified THE PURGE: ANARCHY‘s message of “down with the rich-white folks” and the older white couple behind me had had enough.  The two stood up and walked out cursing and mumbling under their breath.  I couldn’t make out exactly what they said, but something about “bullshit,” “Obama,” “guns,” and some racial slurs definitely came out.  I’ve never seen a film outside of a Biblical story invoke such anger out of someone as they left the theatre, and that’s when it was all solidified for me.  It’s not going to win any Oscars, but THE PURGE: ANARCHY is the most important film of 2014.

WARNING: THERE ARE SOME SLIGHT SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

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First of all, the film is remarkably diverse.  Of the five major characters in the film, three of the five are women, all three of the women are descendents of minority groups, and the secondary characters are predominately people of color.  The non-white characters aren’t presented as token and this is one of the only Blumhouse pictures that couldn’t have been alternately titled “Rich White People Problems.”  The first installment of THE PURGE angered a lot of people, and a huge part of the backlash was from the representation (or lack of) people of color.  One of the only non-white characters in the first film was a homeless black man that was frequently referred to as “lesser-than” or a “pig” by some manic yuppies.  Rather than let the black man fight for himself, he needed the help and safety of a rich-white family…only for the tables to turn and the black man to save the white family.  There’s an archetype for this, it’s called “the noble savage” and it’s been plaguing our storytelling for centuries.  THE PURGE was like THE BLIND SIDE but with less football and more guns.  THE PURGE: ANARCHY is definitely NOT that movie.  While there is a bit of a “white-knight” storyline going on with Frank Grillo’s character, this is a HUGE step forward for Hollywood and it was really refreshing to see a horror movie that focused on the lives of people other than beautiful white folks having their perfect lives disrupted.

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Secondly, it paints a grim picture of the affluent that few films have the balls to even put near a canvas.  Class struggle and the distribution of wealth in America is a really, really serious issue.  However, unless you’re watching a viral video on UpWorthy or actively participating in social justice sites on Tumblr, a majority of the discussions go unnoticed or ignored.  One of the main characters is Cali (Zoë Soul), who plays a stereotypically “socially-aware millennial” and a majority of what she says is often dismissed as annoying or bullcrap.  This is exactly what we have a tendency to do with most socially conscious conversations.   The Occupy movement has pretty much died down, and media outlets are still doing the best they can to pretend all white people are awesome and the only crimes that happen are from minority groups.  Oh, and if a crime ever DOES happen by a white person, they’re probably just mentally ill without an outlet for their aggression. Outlet for their aggression? You mean…like a Purge?  There’s a line in the film that discusses one of the major reasons for the purge’s existence, and it discusses population control.  In the simplest terms, a purge night is very similar to hunting season for deer.  Hunting season exists to prevent certain types of animals from overpopulating and becoming nuisances.  Well, compare that to how we treat the unemployed, the lower-class, people of color, and our welfare systems…and we’ve got ourselves legal hunting season.  Trade bullets for jail cells and we’ve found a way to deal with our country’s so-called “nuisances.”  Seeing the similarities here?

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The commentary on gun control is probably my favorite aspect of the entire film.  The anti-New Founding Fathers group lead by Carmelo Jones (Michael K. Williams) has a great line about how we “No longer worship God, Mohammed, Yahweh, and instead are praying at the altar of Smith and Wesson.”  The world that writer/director James DeMonaco has painted is definitely one that follows the belief of “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  I’ll be honest, that’s secretly one of my biggest fears, so THE PURGE: ANARCHY is something straight out of my nightmares.  However, in this hypothetical world where all crime is legal for a night, it’s logical that we’d all be pressured to buy guns and protection services.  Remember, there are no police, fire, or hospital assistance for 12 hours, we are literally on our own.  I don’t want to own a gun, and I don’t want guns to be super accessible, but if people are legally allowed to use these weapons, I’m sort of forced to do the same just to even out the playing field.  Unless we all flock to another country for the night (but who can afford that?) guns and ammo are really our only option.  That’s. Terrifying.  Who’s to say we aren’t already a step on the way there?  I mean, we’ve already got civilians carrying around AKs in the middle of the day while they shop at Target, and it’s perfectly legal.  There are a lot of psychological studies that prove the “some people are only alive because it’s illegal to kill them” mentality, which makes the world of THE PURGE even scarier.  There’s already been studies that suggest an acceptable outlet for aggression (like playing violent video games)   can prevent explosion of violence, but I fortunately doubt that something like a purging would ever be implemented in this country.  You know, because that would mean politicians would actually be listening to scientific evidence.

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At the heart of THE PURGE world, is the human dedication to “the right.”  I’m not saying to the right wing or the conservative right, but the all-being, all-powerful right to do something.  On Purge night, people claim innocence for murder because it is a RIGHT sanctioned by their government to do so.  On Purge night, a man is totally allowed to rape the woman in his apartment building that dismisses his advances, because it is a RIGHT given to him by his government.  If this isn’t one giant parallel to the rights we as Americans tend to abuse out of our own ignorance, I don’t know what is.  Sure, we have the right to bear arms, but should we really be walking around outside with weapons strapped to our backs?  It is true, we DO have the right to free speech, but does that mean we shouldn’t be held accountable when we say horribly offensive things while in a position of power?  Americans use their “rights” as a clutch to get away with just about anything and everything.  The same people that misuse the “I thought this was a free country” defense, are the same people that would totally murder their cheating husband instead of just divorcing him.

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Is the message of THE PURGE: ANARCHY a little heavy-handed?  Yes.  Does that make the message of THE PURGE: ANARCHY any less important? No.  I hate to say it, but I’m actually glad that DeMonoco took the path of bashing us over the head with the message, because maybe it’ll help people actually see the obvious parallels between this terrifying near-future and the world we’re already living in.  I honestly don’t think the average audience member would actually “get it” had he gone for subtlety.  By simplifying his message and delivering it on a silver platter, he’s ensuring that EVERYONE, regardless of intelligence level, were going to hear the message loud and clear. Some may call that playing to the lowest common denominator, I call it smart planning.  Call it a “Wake up Sheeple” film all you want, it doesn’t change the fact that DeMonoco’s film is important. The first time I saw the film, I was accompanied by a large group of teenagers.  When the film ended, the group sat there arguing about what the film was trying to say, while their petrified mother dismissed it all as “liberal propaganda.” The kids insisted that the film was so much more than that, but their mother wasn’t hearing it.  THAT is what makes a film important in my eyes.  The fact that a horror film, a film from the genre that is constantly blown off as being nothing more than grotesque, is causing people to actually question the real world.  The current state of mainstream horror films has become something of formulaic story lines, remakes, or endless sequels. James DeMonoco took the opportunity to say something important under the guise of a fun horror flick.

Comments
13 Responses to “Why ‘THE PURGE: ANARCHY’ is the Most Important Horror Film of 2014”
  1. Barnick says:

    Really great work on this. Even if the ‘message’ isn’t subtle in those films, the fact that they have something vital on their minds while entertaining is important.

  2. John says:

    The occupy movement was terrible, more crime was committed there than by the “evil corporations” in the past 5 years including rape and right out pooping in the streets. Way to go guys, protest the big corporations in your Nike shoes. Also this is a great way to turn a great horror/thriller into a political issue. You say you don’t mean “right wing” by saying the “right” and yet you capitalize the word and associate it with the right the government gives you, even though right wingers generally do not support big government and something like this governmental power would never stand on a conservative view point. And assuming all people of age are grumpy conservatives is a little farfetched (with the old couple walking out and the mother of the teens remarks). Maybe they didn’t like it BECAUSE they are old and they have obviously seen a lot and learned from what they’ve experienced. You also may not like owning guns and think others shouldn’t, but I’ll remind you Chicago has been the murder capitol of America and Atlanta a close second and both of these cities are gun free. Why do you think these murders happen? Because people can’t defend themselves. And on a final note, and take this as you will, it is not a stereotype if statistics say that behaviors happen in groups of people more than others. I’ll post again later when I get grilled and watch this movie again and maybe I’ll change my views.

    • Aiakya says:

      It is a stereotype if you look at where those statistics are coming from and the environment it influences. Now, I’m not excusing crime, not in the least, but the way society is still structured, the way it still works, is for minorities to commit crimes all in the struggle to survive. Obama became president and many many people tried and reached for reasons why he was unqualified, the man spent most of his time in office having to prove what no other president before him was ever even questioned about. If that, right there doesn’t say a lot about the type of world we are still living in, then I worry about people’s comprehension skills.

      Everything needs to be taken in context. It’s easy to take a snapshot and make inaccurate assumptions without the whole facts. I can say “You have a ugly personality”, someone else edits that assumes something totally different, like “You’re ugly”

      Yes, crime is rampant is those cities but what can you expect come from a people struggling to survive, with enough people considering them less than just because if what they assume they see to actually mean something in the great scheme of things. What can you expect after decades, centuries of institutionalized brain washing?

      As for the older couple, whatever their real thoughts and opinions about the film, bringing up Obama and insulting names isn’t necessary, again, it really speaks to where we are in this country.

    • Divided Line says:

      Is this post a joke?

  3. Okay8 says:

    And I completely agree. When I saw this movie it really had me thinking about everything I had just saw. I have to say that this one was 100% better than the first because of the message it portrayed. Even though Rotten Tomatoes gave it a low rating I still think the message of it has a lot to say.

  4. Chi town mark says:

    This type of “extermination” or “purge” has always come from the left, not the right. Do some reading and study some history. Stalin, Mao, Camir Rouge, etc were on the extreme left.

    • Divided Line says:

      Suharto killed half a million, Videla waged his dirty war, Efrain Rios Montt waged a genocide against the Mayans of Ixil in the early 1980s, all with U.S. arms and support. The Reagan admin also backed Pol Pot against N. Vietnam. It overthrew Chile’s 140 year old democracy and purged labor and student leaders. Throughout central America it has sent U.S. equipped and trained paramilitaries after advocates for the poor and Catholic priests. I could go on and on. Are you fucking serious?

  5. RobotFart says:

    I watched this film tonight. It was pure propaganda from the left wing extremists. No conservatives think this way. Brainwashing the populous seems to be the way of democrats these days. I remember when I was a democrat when they used to be mentally stable. wow.

    • SMITH says:

      The film’s messages and the ways they come off are different to different individuals. Personally, I was turned off by the political messages of the film, but enjoyed the story and journey of Frank Grillo’s character. We at Icons of Fright think differently, but we embrace and encourage each writer to have the freedom to voice their opinions.

  6. DD says:

    Honestly I believe this is why there is so much “hate” for one another in the world along with NO CONSCIENCE OF HUMAN LIFE! If we live just by the 10 COMMANDEMENTS (though shall not kill)We wouldn’t even see these type of sick minded movies let alone for our children to watch. Hard enough to transition from 18yrs old into adulthood without seeing these types of movies bringing on nothing but stress hatred and non caring citizens. This to me is a sick movie and sick minded people can only think of a one day once a year killing! WOW I WOLL PRAY FOR THE DEMONIC PEOPLE

  7. davidgary1 says:

    I’m baffled, WHY would anyone walk out of theatre angry at a Biblical movie??? Anyone??? Unless they are Satanic maybe or anti Christian? Is that what BJ Colangelo meant here? Totally confused.

  8. davidgary1 says:

    Ironic isn’t it when it is the left who support the genocide of the unborn children in America, particularly the genocide of the African American community

  9. no thanks says:

    So all these people asserting that without government everyone will run out for rape murder…..Those people are terrifying. I mean I just want some weed.

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