Mimetic theory, the War on Terror, immigration, inter-racial tensions, homeland security… All sorts of anxieties rolled up into one. I can’t wait to see it. I just hope it doesn’t devolve into abject moralizing or wind up inadvertently reinforcing the myth of redemptive violence it appears to be seeking to deconstruct.
I realize masked villains are nothing new in horror, but in the past, they were usually lone figures (e.g. Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jigsaw) bent on exacting a warped form of justice. The fact they are now arriving in “bunches” is definitely a more recent development. And rather than represent a cry for justice, they represent the forces of chaos and societal breakdown. It’s reminiscent of a horde of vampires in 30 Days of Night, hordes of zombies in The Walking Dead, World War Z and so on. The popularity of these films and TV shows seem to suggest our current anxieties revolve around having our personal space invaded by hordes of nameless, faceless killers. The question is, do any of them offer a way out of this situation other than merely trumping their “bad” violence with our “good” violence?
The Walking Dead appears to be wrestling with this on some levels, but I can’t say as much for the other films listed. 30 Days of Night is a great case in point, where the protagonist literally becomes the enemy in order to defeat the enemy. (Despite this failing, it’s still my favorite vampire film of all time.)
In my view, whether or not The Purge successfully punctures the myth of redemptive violence will determine if it becomes a cult classic that transcends its genre or just another 1.5 hours of thrills and chills. Either way, I’ll definitely give it a look.