I think my main problem with it was the pacing, and the speed at which the story moves before it slows down a bit towards the end. The characters all figure everything out way too quickly, within the first ten minutes, in order to get to what the filmmakers probably considered the meat of the story: how groups of people will turn on each other to survive. The problem is that this removes any real mystery or sense of discovery from the beginning of the film, as we're presented with the rules very early on and then just have to watch increasingly shrill and awful people decide to kill the weakest among them. This also leads to some groan-worthy exposition and leaps of logic as people figure out how to control who gets killed with no real effort, just some quickly babbled nonsense. At first I thought this implied a mole in the group, but (spoiler alert) no, it was just lazy writing There was also a problem with the pacing of the film, as I said. The orb kills someone every two minutes, no more no less, and so the dwindling group of survivors has two minutes to talk and try to discover a way out of their predicament once somebody is killed. The film is presented in real time, yet for the first 20 minutes of the film the orb often gives the group much less than 2 minutes, while by the end it's giving more than that amount. A small quibble, maybe, but it was annoying.
The Purge: Election Year (2016) My second year working at Halloween Horror Nights the theme was The Purge, and it was decidedly un-Halloween. Guests would walk around a corner and someone in an intentionally cheap mask (mimicking the masks in the film, of course) wearing a tuxedo would walk up and point a gun at their heads. Sometimes people with chainsaws would lunge at them, too. I was disappointed all season long, because nothing about it seemed appropriate, or in the proper spirit. Personally, I would not consider the Purge films to be horror, or at least I would consider them horror in only the loosest sense. I'm not trying to be a pedant here, but the films have just never been scary, and don't really seem interested in scaring people beyond a couple obligatory jump scares. The only thing that causes the films to be filed under horror are their general aesthetic and focus on gore. I would actually consider the films to be grimier-than-most action flicks. But these films are categorized as horror, and labels can be so slippery when discussing genre films anyway, so I'll go ahead and add it to the scorecard for my Halloween viewing.
Or perhaps I should be more forgiving to the Purge films. Certainly they do what all great horror movies do by tapping into a prevalent fear of the day. These days, when we have more mass shootings then there are days in the year, when every large gathering brings with it the fear that some madman with a gun will choose to cut down dozens of civilians, when every parent worries about not whether their child will fit in at school, but whether one of their classmates came to school with their parent's gun, and our elected politicians respond to the largest mass shooting we've seen by explaining to us why we can't do anything about gun violence, the Purge films do tap into something. It certainly seems in this country that we've become resigned to random mass shootings, and it's beginning to feel like the victims of those shootings are our sacrificial offerings in order to live in America. In that light, a film about an annual culling of the poor and helpless orchestrated by wealthy politicians seems like the perfect vehicle for exploring very real anxieties. It's so obvious that you can't even call it a metaphor; the films directly address the world we live in today. The problem is, the Purge films just aren't very good.
The original Purge was a forgettable home invasion film that introduced the concept of an annual murder-fest in a film that never actually revolved around said murder-fest. It was decent enough, bolstered mainly by Ethan Hawke giving it his all in a film that did not deserve it, and the reliable thrills of vicariously watching characters mount a makeshift defense of their home. I had a lot of issues with both the plot and also the general world building of the film, as the purge did not make sense to me. Not only could I not see it actually becoming the law of the land, but I had serious questions about how the rules of that society as presented would function. Putting that aside, the biggest flaw was that The Purge never became about the purge, it was a standard home invasion flick with some lip service towards dystopian horror. The second film, The Purge: Anarchy, was a massive improvement over the first, and while not a film I've ever felt driven to revisit, it was one I actually enjoyed. It took the major problems of the first film and seemed to address them all. The world was fleshed out significantly by shifting the focus from one family being stalked by rich kids to an ensemble piece focusing on several characters over the night in question. The film's varied locales and multiple points of view pointed a way towards the Purge films becoming almost an anthology series of desperate characters struggling against a violent dystopian society.
At first glance Purge: Election Year continues to make good on the promise of the second film. It expands our knowledge of the world by shifting the focus to politics, and also to the groups of people who try to fight the purge (a pair of women who drive around in a fortified ambulance and help victims when they find them, an underground resistance movement focused on more violent means of governmental overthrow). In practice, however, the film represents a marked step backwards. Not only is Election Year the cheapest looking of the Purge films by far, it features some of the weakest acting in the series, and definitely the worst dialogue. Five minutes in I had lost count of how many times various characters had used the word 'cunt' in casual conversation.
By the end of the film I had quite lost interest in any of the events, and lost track of the plot for awhile as my mind drifted off to more engaging things. I realized I am probably done with The Purge, though I see a fourth film is in development for release next year, and I have to admit I'll probably watch it eventually.
The Incident is very much more of the same. The film follows to parallel storylines, one in the present day, and on in the mid-eighties. The first storyline follows two criminal brothers and the cop that is chasing them. After trying to escape through their apartment's stairwell, one of the brothers is shot by the cop, and they find the stairwell has become an eternal loop. Going down to the first floor takes them back to the 9th, and going up takes them to the 1st. In the second storyline, set 35 years earlier, a married couple and two children embark on a roadtrip to take the children to visit their biological father. On a deserted stretch of highway the daughter begins suffering an asthma attack, and when they turn around to race back home and get her inhaler, the family discovers the highway has become... an eternal loop. Are the two stories connected? I think you can figure that part out on your own.
I enjoyed The Incident at about the same level, and for many of the same reasons, as The Similars. In fact I was ready to say that The Incident was the superior film, as it seemed to have a firmer grasp on the message it was trying to convey. The film has some interesting things to say about how violence can be almost like a physical illness, passed on from perpretator to victim to witness, creating an endless chain going on to the end of time. It ruined that, however, in a silly ending that tries to hard to explain what was already obvious, and by bringing in some really ridiculous metaphysical elements that were not even hinted at in the preceding film. Anyone who's read this far will probably have a good idea of whether they'd want to see it or not, but I would call it a qualified recommendation for those looking for a little Twilight Zone weirdness.
I watched a Godzilla flick with my daughter: Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah. My daughter is an emerging Godzilla fan, and I was happy to revisit one of the Heisei films, featuring one of my favorite running exchanges about peoples inability to grasp that a spaceship is actually a time machine (a gag ruined by the fact that I originally watched this film dubbed, and the subtitling, which is probably more accurate, simplifies the exchanges). Through Shout Factory's website I streamed Bad Moon (1996), a werewolf film I had somehow never watched. It was fairly mediocre, but I always enjoy a monster. I also thought that, for the time, the digital composite effects used to create the transformation, while nowhere near as good as something practical like American Werewolf in London, were still surprisingly solid. Also on Scream Factory I checked out Nomads (1986), which I only knew about from seeing the cover in the video store as a kid. It was surprisingly dull and convoluted, with Pierce Brosnan trying out the worst and most inconsistent French accent I think I've ever heard.
To see my numerical ratings, and follow along with everything else I'm watching, you can check out my letterboxd profile here: https://letterboxd.com/theworkingdead/