The concept for THE PURGE is one that works in almost any context. It’s the future, and in an attempt to curtail violent crime, the government has declared an annual holiday: THE PURGE, in which for one night out of the year, (almost) any crime is perfectly legal. It’s monstrous and yet rife with possibilities that, over the course of three films, the franchise has been regularly exploring.
The first THE PURGE took place in a suburban community, and mostly inside of a single house, where an affluent family tries to sit out the rest of the world’s problems but find themselves dragged into the nightmare despite themselves. THE PURGE: ANARCHY ventured outside, into the fray, where everyone who chooses to “purge” comes across like a slasher villain, a hit squad or a costumed criminal out of a comic book.
With the new film, THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR, taking place in against a political backdrop, I thought now would be a good time to examine some of the other fascinating settings where THE PURGE could take place. These are the locations where different aspects of the franchise’s themes could be explored, exciting and shocking set pieces could take place, and also a few dumb ones that I just think would be neat, damn it.
Check out THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR in theaters this Friday.
THE PURGE GOES TO DISNEYLAND
Okay. First, let’s be realistic for a moment: Disneyland is never, ever going to allow itself to be associated with an R-rated franchise about murder holidays. But that doesn’t mean the idea of Disneyland is off limits. It’s actually one corner of the PURGE universe that hasn’t been explored in much detail.
Americans like their tourist traps, and it only makes sense that on the most outlandish and ghoulish of holidays, some shady amusement park entrepreneurs would try to take advantage of that. Imagine those wonderfully spooky haunted house gimmicks they have at Halloween, except you’re paying to be in one of the spook masks, and there’s nothing preventing you from straight-up committing crimes all over the park.
And then of course there are all the rides and attractions, which would be modified one night out of the year for THE PURGE. Like the centennial fair in Herschell Gordon Lewis’s splatter classic TWO THOUSAND MANIACS!, audiences could line up to watch outlandishly theatrical kills that might otherwise be impossible for them to experience. And they get to do it while munching on cotton candy.
THE PURGE ON THE BORDER
The PURGE movies are inherently political, and even before one of them had the subtitle “ELECTION YEAR” they were pretty overt about it. Issues of economic disparity are all over this franchise, with the “haves” using the yearly purge to dispense with the “have nots,” or at least let the “have nots” kill each other off.
So aiming one of the PURGE sequels at a different political theme is a fairly natural, although obviously confrontational idea. Many politicians are using American anxieties about immigration as a platform, at the risk of demonizing people entering the country from Mexico, legally or otherwise. With tensions flaring, how would those who are already pretty militant about defending our borders behave, if they were given carte blanche to commit violent crimes?
Setting a PURGE sequel at the Mexican/American border would raise very interesting questions about the fundamental premise of the series. Some Americans wonder whether illegal immigrants should be protected under the same laws. So in the world of THE PURGE, are immigrants allowed to participate in the slaughter? If so, would they use this opportunity to rise up against their purging oppressors? And if not, how would Mexico react to American citizens murdering Mexican citizens in the middle of a holiday?
These are just the sort of controversial topics this franchise hasn’t been afraid to tackle so far. I wouldn’t be very surprised if future PURGE films touch upon this subject in one way or another.
A PURGE ON CHRISTMAS
So far in the series we’ve learned that The Purge is an annual event, one that does not take place on Christmas. But it is also a holiday sanctioned by the government, and the government can make any damned holiday any time it wants. What if they decided to increase the frequency of The Purge? What if, at the last minute, they declared a purge on Christmas?
Yes, it’s a twist on the whole “War on Christmas” concept. In a world where horrifying violence is celebrated with as much enthusiasm as a holiday about peace on Earth and good will towards men, the potential to explore the hypocrisies of religion – especially as it nourishes a capitalist economy, and divides people into “naughty” and “nice” categories – is particularly exciting.
The “Killer Santa” genre has always been a favorite among horror fans, so why not a whole society of homicidal Kringles running around with deadly weapons? It would be like Black Friday, only slightly more dangerous.
THE PURGE DOES COMIC-CON
Of course, like Disneyland, the odds that any other pop culture entity would be willing to be associated with mass murder, even in a fictional setting, is pretty slim. I highly doubt Marvel Studios would endorse a PURGE sequel in which fans of Captain America and Iron Man dressed up like their favorite heroes and committed savage atrocities.
But let’s look at it from a different angle: vigilantes are criminals too, and vigilantism is (presumably) legal during The Purge. So if a sizable part of the population is going to act like a Batman villain one night out of the year, why wouldn’t at least a small part of the populace decide to act like Batman himself? Or at least The Punisher?
Of course, since THE PURGE has always been about vicious irony – keeping violent crime to a minimum throughout the year, because you can legally commit violent crimes every 365 days – a sequel with a Comic-Con motif might also be a smart way to satirize the myth of the superhero. These larger than life characters exist outside the law and tend to solve the world’s problems with some degree of violence. In a world where violence is legal on an annual basis, what would those kinds of people act like? And how would they be any different from the maniacs that they’re fighting?
THE PURGE… IN… SPACE!
All horror movies go to space eventually. (Well, okay, that’s a lie but a LOT of them have.) It’s usually the last resort of a franchise that has run out of ideas. Adding sci-fi elements to FRIDAY THE 13TH or DRACULA usually results in a pretty goofy movie, and hopefully we have quite a few more PURGE sequels and spin-offs ahead of us before the franchise devolves that far.
But if this series ever does go nuts, why not go COMPLETELY nuts? The idea of a civilization that purges its violent impulses with an annual murder spree is a concept right out of STAR TREK anyway. What happens when mankind finally reaches the stars, and turns out to be the scariest culture in the whole galaxy? Would it really come as that much of a surprise?
Or, if you want to shrink the concept way, way down… what happens on an American space station in the middle of THE PURGE? You’d have to be pretty crazy to commit an atrocity in such a volatile environment, but the fundamental premise of THE PURGE is that a lot of people would take advantage of any excuse to go crazy. All you need is one mentally unstable astronaut to have a very distinctive – albeit very strange – thriller in space.