My enthusiasm for the prospect of The Purge: Anarchy is the prospect of that trashy viewing experience being realised. What better time than summer for something cheap and cheerful?
In the opening moments of the trailer bereaved dad Frank Grillo (The Grey) locks on to a very specific target with his grief motivated revenge but naturally gets sidetracked by his pesky hero complex, an impervious announcer reminds the populous of the chaos that approaches and a wholesome young couple have broken down on their way out of town. Plot teasers reveal that a mother and daughter join Frank and The Wholesomes as the five band together to make it through the night.
So far, so blah. All the boxes are ticked for a perfectly adequate budget sequel – one of the thousands churned out by jobbing TV actors every day of the week. Their mission: to maintain a loose thematic link to the original and to cash in on its success without innovation or expectation of critical glory. Their MO: throw plenty of big bangs, blood and boobs at the screen to obscure the plot holes and cast at least three faces from Law & Order. Yet tucked away tidily at the trailer’s end is another, more intriguing, prospect. An audience of baying WASPs in their finest cocktail attire, bidding for the pleasure of killing our plucky cast before sunrise heralds the end of hunting season.
While I am all in favour of hard-hitting, powerful, filmmaking with a message, there is something exhilarating about really daft, unabashed ultra-violence. It offers the same manner of escapism as reality TV – an opportunity to be breathtakingly judgemental about unpleasant people without the necessity of interacting with them. You may condemn an unlikeable character to death with the same dismissive tsk you use to express disapproval of a Real Housewife of Wherever when she bitches about a BFF behind her back. These aren’t real people, they are caricatures, and thus may remain exempt from our empathy. Without the constraint of relatable, fully realised characters to attach to we may squeal and groan, boo and hiss, slurp our cola and enjoy the theatrical ride. And The Purge: Anarchy looks like one hell of a ride. The eerie masks are back on the faces of pleasure-killers – summoning memories of the senseless/merciless assault from The Strangers with thrilling chills of recall – and the streets shudder with explosions of automatic gunfire and flame.
If writer/director James DeMonaco is prepared to have a little more fun with the follow up to his original Purge picture, Anarchy should be far greater than the sum of its parts. DeMonaco’s screenplay for Assault on Precinct 13 was taut with nervous anticipation and didn’t hold back on bodycount so I have high hopes. The Purge was a fine premise with a tonne of frustratingly untapped potential and I’m chuffed to see the sequel turn its back on suburbia and throw down in the city instead.
Certainly the credentials of the film’s producers – among them an enthusiastic Jason Blum (Sinister, the Insidious and Paranormal Activity franchises) and BOOM! lover Michael Bay – ought to guarantee me the shudders of horror and adrenalin I seek. With the addition of Michael K. Williams (The Wire) and Nico Nicotera (Sons of Anarchy) to the cast as a talent cherry on the top of all that tasty pandemonium, I am absolutely sold on The Purge: Anarchy as my popcorny thriller fix this summer. A state-sanctioned reimaging of The Warriors for a disaffected, Prozac Nation – what’s not to love?
The Purge: Anarchy opens on July 18th in the US and July 25th on UK screens