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'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
and we all fell promptly asleep out of boredom.
Krampus is the story of a family (and a society) that has lost its Christmas spirit. While relatives gather and children bicker, one kid has had enough and gives up what remains of his Christmas cheer. Unsuspectingly, he summons Krampus, the less friendly of Christmas heroes and suddenly the family home is under siege from dark elves, demon goats and monstrous toys.
What starts out as a possible thrill ride with an abundance of black humour and scares slowly reveals itself to be a completely confused mess of horror, comedy and drama. Not scary enough to maintain the energy or suspense, not funny enough to cut through the slower moments and not enough real reason to care for a family that doesn't really seem to have any problems other than the fact that they all find each other slightly annoying. The pacing is far too slow for a horror - its plodding and bloated with far too many things happening in between scary moments, consistently dampening any terror you may be feeling. About halfway through we're treated to an animation of Krampus' history which is neither interesting nor originally animated and comes straight after the kidnapping/murder of a child... not really the time for storytelling, is it? It's not entirely made clear what happens to any of the caught victims so it's never that scary if they're caught - they could be taken to a spa for treatments or forced to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" on repeat for all we know.
Saying that, there is some fun to be had. The adult cast are great and seem to be having a lot of fun. Conchita Ferrell is hilarious as an alcoholic, acerbic aunt and David Koechner does what he does best.
The biggest disappointment arises when the mania finally sets in. Having given no real indication of what Krampus or his minions are capable of, it's rather confusing when a bunch of demonic toys wreak havoc. Although it's a hilarious (and at moments scary) scene, this should have been a manic release of all the tension so far built. Instead, the poor direction and editing has just led us into the event with no real giddiness.
Gremlins this is not. Nor is it Black Christmas (2006). Unhappily, it occupies some squalid straddle over Bad Santa, The Grinch and Nightmare Before Christmas. A lot of good potential squandered on a dull and unoriginal script, lazy editing and unfortunate direction. If you can't sleep on Christmas Eve, watch Krampus, it'll send you off in a second.
Jessica Jones (2015)
A great addition to the Marvel Canon
Jessica Jones has problems. She wants to be a hero but can't seem to get over her disastrous past. She has a drinking problem. She has no friends. She hates herself. She was manipulated into killing her lover's wife. She's also super-strong and can jump high. Between her constant self-loathing, she finds out others' dirty secrets and gets paid for it. She really hates herself.
And it's into this World we are slowly submerged. The story telling a slow drowning into her horrid life. When we first meet Jessica, she's on the case to find a young girl who may have been abducted. Before the first episode is over, things have gotten pretty bad. Really bad. We are also introduced to the movers and shakers and a few of their problems: Trish Walker, Gerry Hogarth, Luke Cage, Kilgrave, Malcolm.
As Jessica tries to redeem herself and keep an innocent girl out of jail, the show goes from film noir to horror. A bit like Chinatown or Angel Heart except with superpowers and far more violence. The show really hits its stride in the second act when a game of cat and mouse plays out with some horrific consequences and dirty mind games. The horror the show has only hinted at comes out of nowhere and the pace doesn't let up til the finale.
However, the finale is a bit of a letdown after such a strong climb. It seems the writers or producers had no imagination (or not enough episodes) to really bring about the destruction they wanted their incredible villain to rain down. It's rushed and a little clunky and a little unbelievable but for everything that has come before, you can almost forgive it.
The cast are great. Krysten Ritter flexing muscles I didn't know she had. She plays sarcastic bitch well but I didn't know she could also do incredibly vulnerable, self-hating soul. Her best friend Trish is played by Rachel Taylor and their chemistry is great. They are a really good antidote to all the masculinity Marvel indulges in. Two very realistic women who are having to fight twice as hard. The supporting cast including Carrie Ann Moss is a delight. Moss' character, a shark of a lawyer, is a great foil to both the villain Kilgrave and Jones. She's in it just for herself and while she is happy to help Jones, her decisions to get something out of it are purely believable and the consequences for her and others are deserved. However, the star of the show is David Tennant as Kilgrave. A delightfully unhinged psychopath whose only motive is to make Jessica fall in love with him. Not interested in blowing up a city or gentrification or making money (his power supersedes all desires) the only thing he can't have is Jessica and he really, really wants her. Watching him manipulate everyone to get her attention and watching him fail to keep her time and again is a remarkable thing. When he finally launches into a series of violent murders, it's almost like some twisted explosion of sexual tension and his idea of a love letter to her.
The other attraction is the story. It starts slow but as we move along, we learn that every little detail meant something. This adds a severe level of gravitas to the final episodes and rewards your viewing. Not a contrived story or moments of shocking revelations, everything is pulled together as their mind games are played out.
I've heard a lot of complaints and I suspect it's due to the show being focused on females. I think, compared to all other superhero shows around, Jessica ranks in the top. A believable hero. A cast of interesting and flawed humans. The ability to shock without resorting to tricks. Some kick ass action and a nasty, nasty villain. I'd heartily recommend Jessica Jones.
How to Get Away with Murder (2014)
I don't usually use the term guilty pleasure...
This is definitely a time to use it. Unlike other ABC shows I used to watch like Desperate Housewives, I never heard a good word about HTGAWM. When Desperate Housewives first appeared there were plaudits and comparisons with Six Feet Under and Sex & The City. Much like DH, this show centres on a mystery (who killed Lila Stangart and how are the main characters going to get away with murder?). Add to that some of the horniest students and professionals I've seen on television since Queer as Folk, you've got a great mix of intrigue, hysteria and mystery. It doesn't pretend to be a good show. It's overblown, it's riddled with over-acting, the plot is paper thin and the court scenes are like cheap episodes of "The Good Wife." And it works in the shows favour. It's so good because it never once puts on the front of being a good television show. It's trashy and dirty and Viola Davis is absolutely amazing. If you're needing to wind down after a hard day of actual work, tune in to How To Get Away With Murder and enjoy the petty dramas of an oversexed, over-thinking, overdressed cast. The jury is out - How To Get Away With Murder is guilty! Guilty of being pleasurable.
A show celebrating life in all its glory
I was interested in the idea of this show when I first heard of it. People from all over the World, connected psychically and chased by an unknown assailant. What I was expecting was something akin to Heroes Series 1 but what you get are 12 perfectly created episodes that do more than just revel in abilities and the unknown.
The show begins ominously with Daryl Hannah talking to a the devil and angel on her shoulders. She's just given birth to 8 people and it seems the army have caught up with her. As she struggles with choices, we see her eight children (not children but adults given a gift) witness something they shouldn't be privy to and so begins the show.
Thankfully, the show slows down a lot after that. The eight children of Angelica slowly begin to realise what has happened to them and amidst the confusion and fear there is a lot of joy and wonder as these strangers learn the beauty and quality to be found in different lives. Balancing out this character drama is a hefty bit of action as two of the main eight are continuously hunted and a further few are involved in severe acts of violence.
Part of the show's appeal is the globe trotting as each of the characters live in different continents, countries and cities (Chicago, San Francisco, Mexico City, Nairobi, Mumbai, London, Reykjavik, Berlin, Seoul). The beauty of the show is in the reactions when they find themselves sharing moments they can't even begin to describe. In one scene, an Icelandic girl living in London remarks "I've never been to America..." when she first meets Will, a cop. In another, an Indian heiress is overwhelmed by the climate in Berlin "It rains like this in Mumbai but it's never this cold!" They slowly gain confidence in one another, sharing their histories and loves. Some of the best scenes are when they share their music or ceremonies with one another and you are allowed into a place that feels private and wonderful. Other moments are life affirming.
The characters are also fully realised. Not all of them accept their new circumstances right away and others treat it as a mere diversion. Some are ready to help and others have absolutely no idea what is going on. There's true craft in the story and it's more than shows such as Heroes ever were. The subtlety to the actions taken show real thought went into every character. They are all creators and destroyers. The inclusion of scenes of reflection and beauty allow the moments of badassery to be far more effective and important to the overall story.
Add to that some incredible photography and great montages and you have yourself a winner. Stand out scenes include a psychic orgy, a Bollywood wedding ceremony, the decimation of a gang in Nairobi, a painful birth experience in Iceland. It'll be interesting to see if the following seasons can maintain the shows quality, I truly hope it does. This show is one that celebrates life in all its forms and should be watched by everyone
Jurassic World (2015)
Jurassic World sees the fruition of John Hammond's work come to life when, 21 years after Jurassic Park opened (and permanently closed) its doors, a new park is successfully up and running. Sadly, for all those involved, humanity is so bored of T. rex and velociraptors that attendance is down and so is sponsorship. Therefore, thanks to Henry Wu (B.D. Wong reprising his role from the original), the lab have created a monster to woo back guests and moolah. Obviously, much like John Hammond's first attempt at messing with nature, things don't turn out as they planned.
Chris Pratt is a velociraptor trainer (what?) who is brought in to inspect the fence surrounding this new investment by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who just happens to have family visiting for the week who are currently going through a crisis. She's far too busy to hang out with her socially misguided nephews and dumps them with her PA. Naturally, they promptly run off. Owen, the trainer, is being wooed by InGen (remember them?) to use these trained velociraptors as weapons of war. The scene is set for carnage. Or is it?
What follows is so mind-numbingly dull, obvious and really rather badly put together that you will be forgiven for believing you're watching a cartoon or magic show.
The main issue is that, unlike its original predecessor (or even Lost World) it can't make its mind up if its family entertainment or adult horror. This new dinosaur has every ability to terrify and yet instead the characters are faced with these horrific situations in which they remain entirely stoic or consider with mild curiosity. Contrast that with the girl in the original wetting herself before she'd even set eyes on the T-Rex and then entering a fit of cerebral palsy when confronted by a bronchiosaur. Here, two children are brutally attacked and barely a minute later are having a wander around the old jurassic park site, enjoying the murals and technology on show. Not to mention having the wits to hotwire and refuel a car that's over 20 years old. If these horrific acts occur and the characters who are facing them don't care, why should the audience?
Part of the problem is pacing. The Indominus Rex escapes 20 minutes into the film, we see it in all it's glory five minutes later and then for another 2 hours watch it tear the park apart. That is far too long a time to watch a set piece implode. Therefore scenes of exposition and moments of incredulity occur to further the plot and push the I. Rex towards the park. When it finally reaches the park, 20,000 guests seem undisturbed by the massacre occurring. One very nasty moment sees a woman repeatedly drowned and bitten by pterodactyls only to be eaten by a much bigger dinosaur and the characters watching do nothing but enjoy the show. Could they actually help? Probably not. Would they watch like it was an episode of Sex and the City? Doubtful, also.
And the CGI... the CGI! Good God, the first thing you see is a CG bird and my first thought was "obviously this is a simulation at the park," but no, this is real, this is a bird generated by computer graphics that is meant to be in the real world. Great to know that in a movie redolent with CGI that it is going to be rather bad. It really, truly is. No scope, not one iota of attention devoted to realism, this is a cartoon through and through.
However, not all of it is bad. The dino fights are brutal and the few new ramifications for the park are wonderful to mull over and talk about after. Chris Pratt, despite playing the worst possible character ever (a velociraptor trainer?!?!?!) manages to remain charismatic and heroic. Bryce D. Howard is also compelling as a control freak watching her World be destroyed bit by bit.
All in all, however, my advice is to go home, by the original on blu-ray or 3D, invest in a good TV and sound system and just scare yourself silly with the original. You'll be pleased you did.
Higurashi no naku koro ni (2006)
Decent Anime - Questions and Answers
In the town of Hinamizawa, a group of young friends violently die shortly after the annual Wataganashi festival. For four episodes, these kids have been your eyes and ears into a World where paranoia and murder lurk just below the surface of a cute and loving exterior.
And so the cycle begins again and again. Each time with different results.
The story of Hinamizawa begins quite confusingly. As the chapters of each cycle develop, more hints as to what is really going on are dropped and it becomes more of a puzzle in which the audience has to put things into perspective. In almost a David Lynch manner, people are not who they appear to be, bizarre goings on are never fully revealed or solved (perhaps they never even happened) and a seemingly innocent act can descend into a massacre.
I found the story to be a bit too kitsch for me in the beginning but it quickly finds its momentum and continues to build strength. When you first encounter the show it's all very scary and hard to understand. However, as it progresses, the edge of the show moves from violent horror to psychological terror. Knowing the fates of each of the young people from the beginning and seeing them struggle to survive or overcome their mistakes becomes increasingly depressing and tough to watch so even though the camera begins to look away when they're being murdered, it hurts even more.
Truly disturbing at times and a testament to the strength of storytelling, I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good story or just unfiltered gore. Because there is a lot of it. Season One is by far the more violent of the two seasons so viewer discretion is advised. I'd also recommend that you source the second season for it explains fully the mystery of Hinamizawa. Also, watch it with subtitles, the dubbing is really rather poor.
Hunter x Hunter (2011)
A great series, more than your average cartoon
First off, a disclosure. I am no anime expert. My interest in anime is fairly new and it's very superficial so perhaps I am not the best person to review this title. However, having watched all available episodes on Netflix and then begging friends for the final 48 episodes I feel moved to give my opinions as to why I will quite likely re-watch it, and recommend it unequivocally.
Hunter begins simply by introducing you to it's main protagonist and his companions as they undergo a tough series of challenges to gain their Hunter license. In the World of Hunter x Hunter, bizarre creatures exist and, apparently so just magic. Gon Freecss is a 12 year old boy who has grown up around nature. Having learned that his father is not at all dead and had abandoned him to live a life as a Hunter, Gon sets out to learn why his dad cares more about his job by becoming a Hunter himself. In the process of finding this out, he also hopes to gain the skills and intel necessary to find his dad, Ging.
Essentially, what separates this show from other cartoons is the narrative and incredible use of characters and histories. It is a fully realised World and the characters are all flesh and blood and believable. Although it starts slow and Gon may be a hard character to get behind (seemingly never being bested by anyone and terminally optimistic), the show eventually shows its teeth and begins chomping at the naivety of its young cast. Themes of bad overcoming good, child exploitation, drug cartels and the socio-economic effects of nations run by weapons and drugs and dictatorships (with some thinly veiled attacks on North Korea and the USA's dropping of atomic bombs on Japan thrown into the mix), not to mention hinted at themes of paedophilia and statutory rape, the show gradually reveals an ugly side of the World to young Gon and Killua. The show is also never short on gore with some truly disturbing moments (the aftermath of a character's torture in the 4th arc, the Bomber's Little Flower ability in the 5th arc and a lot of the penultimate arc are quite horrific).
Gon and Killua eventually make for a great couple of companions in which to visit this World. Gon, naive and simple, and Killua who is much too wise beyond his years offer contrasting views on the good and bad within other humans. Their friendship strengthens believably throughout the series and the underlying homosexual tones are sweet and never overblown or gratuitous. As Gon becomes more spiteful towards the World (or aware of the fact that being nice won't always win out), Killua seeks to become kinder and connected to other people. As the series draws to a close, both of them are much stronger and mature with Killua capable of companionship and Gon capable of making hard decisions.
The other stand out characters are Kurapika and Hisoka. Kurapika, whilst being in probably less episodes than any of the other main cast is given an entire arc when he comes face to face with those who murdered his family, "The Phantom Troupe." Consisting of some of the most strongest, deadliest thieves and villains in this World, Kurapika is forced close to heartlessness and devastation to bring about his revenge. What's fascinating about Kurapika is his yin and yang - for the most part he is by far the most stable and sensible of the cast and yet there are flashes of the rage and blind fury that propels him. In the arc we see him become so committed to his cause that he is confronted with the choice to sacrifice Gon in order to win or be satisfied with waiting til another opportunity presents itself.
Hisoka, on the other hand, is chaos incarnate. He lives for no one but himself. This makes him a great ally but also, for majority of the show, a constant pain in the foot for Gon and every other human alive. He has no qualms about killing people and although he is sexually attracted to Gon and Killua, if the situation called for it, he'd kill them.
The animation, especially within the fights, is outstanding. As the show's more complex details are brought to light (the case of magic or aura), the animation in fights becomes even more breathtaking. The climactic fight between Kurapika and a member of the Phantom Troupe is insane. The use of colour and sound help push the fight into territory I've never seen before in standard cartoons or even live action. Other stand out moments include Gyro's tale, the fight between Gon and Hisoka and whenever Killua uses his Godspeed.
The other beautiful aspect of the show is the music. Expertly used and heightening many moments, it changes the show from just a cartoon to a serious and deserving series. The songs that are used to close the episodes are thought out and a lot of important moments are amplified (the death of Ponzu has a seriously creepy riff playing underneath before the moment and then after, most of the Phantom Troupe's maniacal damage is even scarier due to the choral music and Killua finding Gon inches from death's door in the final moments of the Chimera Ant arc is made even more heartbreaking by the lamento for piano).
All in all, I'd recommend Hunter X Hunter to anyone who enjoys action and drama. It contains all the right ingredients to be compelling viewing, subverting expectations and shocking at times whilst being tender and honest at others. Not to mention some incredibly directed and animated fighting. And, let's be honest, it's what you're watching for, isn't it?
American Horror Story (2011)
unbelievable disappointment awaits
Over three seasons, this show continues to come along with very exciting premises, and then (at varying times throughout each season) falls apart at the seems.
Ryan Murphy seems to be incapable of reigning it in. Rather than focus on all the good he has, especially in season 3, he manages, in 13 episodes to throw even more in, discarding stories he might find boring without tying them up, writing things into a corner so that they're forgotten about the next week to allow the story to continue, killing and reviving and killing and reviving, not to mention the stupidly confusing choices the characters make along the way.
So let's begin with the biggest waste this season: Fiona Goode. Jessica Lange has created, until now, two successful anti-heroes. Both were twisted and cynical but also possessed a capacity for love (albeit of a bizarre manner). Fiona Goode, her character in this season, is nothing but a tired rehash of those two women; same mannerisms, same accent, same attitude. She murders a young girl in one instant and then revives a still-born baby the next. Then she repeats the cycle again. There's only so many times a viewer can be bothered sympathising or hating someone. Along the way, one just gets bored.
The next biggest disappointments occur in two new additions to the cast: Angela Basset and Kathy Bates. Both do so much with what they're offered (Kathy eventually just reprising Annie Wilkes and Angela as the sassy black sidekick) that it ruins the entire season (how, if a casting director or even show creator can find nothing more to do with two gifted veteran actors can he possibly have had any idea of what to do with the show in the first place?). It's sickening, really. Kathy plays the villain Madame LaLaurie who was cursed by Angela's Marie Laveau to live forever. Entombed beneath New Orleans, LaLaurie is released by Fiona to discover the secret of youth. However, when Marie Laveau discovers that LaLaurie was released, she sends her demon army after the coven.
LaLaurie, clearly a psychopath, spends most of the season repenting and learning from the African American witch, Queenie. So it's bizarre that she spends so long repenting when she's devoid of feelings (what a waste of ten episodes to discover what we already knew). Marie Laveau, probably the most grey of the characters in this season, laments the passing of her minotaur pet who she set out to kill the Salem witches. She then bangs on about a truce being broken by the Salem witches. Honey, I don't want to go all first grade on you but you broke the truce first! Apparently, she had been breaking it for a while. So, who exactly are we supposed to support in this cluster-mug?
Surely it must be the young students of the Coven?!? Four young women all nearing the edge of reason who require nothing more than a wrong look to kill someone? Who kill and revive one another and then eventually just kill one another? Who love to soliloquise the end of the Coven and of the Witch line whilst they maim and murder and brutalise themselves and others publicly? Yeah, they seem a safe bet...
Maybe it's the supporting cast we should root for? Misty Day, Chordelia SpiritFingers or Myrtle? Whilst the least offensive of the cast, they also seem the most useless. Misty has the power to revive people and spends her days dancing to Stevie Nicks in a swamp until a Witch Hunter tries to kill her. Then she just gets killed at the coven, anyway. Chordelia SpiritFingers is the headmistress of the school and Coven and daughter of Fiona. She seems nice. I mean, she spends her days in a garden doing nothing but crying about how useless she is whilst her charges burn down houses, flip buses, shag men to death and force the neighbours to ingest bleach... Then she gets the power of sight (you might think she'd become proactive) but can't even figure out that her husband is a Witch Hunter (maybe it's poetic that she's blinded by her love of him, I just found it sloppy writing). Myrtle, Myrtle Myrtle Myrtle. Frances Conroy is the one thing I like about this season. She's batty. She's cookie. She's just plain nuts. She's also highly entertaining. However, like the other two, she kinda just dies and then comes back only to die again. She also melon balls some eye balls and looks peachy doing it. Guess that's alright.
So, to cap this off, this season is a mess. If you read this and thought "Gee, he sounds messy," I won't take responsibility. I've tried to linearise the plot strands. It's impossible. It's messy. It's confused. It's full of style and contains no substance. I applaud an almost all female cast but when they're reduced to bickering over men, murdering children for their youth or backstabbing one another for power, I can't help but feel they must all be ashamed. I know I'd be.
Fairy Tail (2009)
lather, rinse, repeat! But it's ohhhh so shiny!!!
I really don't know how best to write this...
I just binged on the first 48 episodes thanks to Netflix.
Fairy Tail is the story of a wizard guild set in a World a lot like ours. It begins with Lucy, a young user of celestial magic who wants to join the Fairy Tail guild. After meeting Natsu, she is inducted into the guild and meets (amongst others); Gray, Erza, Loke, Elfman, Mira, Cana. What follows is the relationships, surprises and histories of majority of these characters.
The show essentially, after the first few episodes of meeting everyone, follows the same patter; the team accept a mission, they meet some impossibly hard foe, the foe has henchmen, the minor characters defeat the henchmen and are rendered incapable, Natsu defeats the big bad (sometimes with help/ encouragement from others). In amongst the fighting, or just before/after, we'll be introduced to the next big bad, or it will be hinted at, and then we'll have a nice reprieve before it all begins again.
So, due to this, the character development can be a bit lousy - the only 'development' I remember is Elfman and his history with Lisanna which builds to the unleashing of Mira's true powers in the penultimate episode. We never see the characters training, they usually just get better when they need to. Lucy's celestial guardians seem kind of lame when we first meet them all (Taurus looses against a monkey) but then they just keep getting better because the enemies just keep getting (apparently) harder. Natsu always seems to fight like someone who's never been in a fight when he first encounters a bad guy but then, after being pummelled (and after a reminder of the true strength that lies within him from Erza or Gray or Makarov or Gajeel or Happy) rises up and, using the same technique that just had his butt handed to him, wins.
Then there's the illicit details of how the magic is working. I mean, really, I can't be bothered to here for the umpteenth time how that magic spell will obliterate everything in its path. I can figure out why Natsu is shooting flames out his feet to act like a jet and penetrate a forcefield, thank you very much... is this a Japanese thing? The need to be so heavy with exposition?
Add to that the very confusing dialogue (I watched with subtitles) which never seems grammatically correct and you're sometimes confused as to how Erza's armour just happens to be the right combination... and how did Gray just? Oh never mind.
Because this show is awesome.
The magic and action sequences are always a lot of fun and very high energy. Some of the magic abilities are really cool (one summons a demon that tears its way into our reality, that one was spooky). Even if they do talk so much. My favourite is probably Juvia (as in Lluvia, the Spanish for rain). She's an elemental, or so they say, and has complete control over water. She can create it, manipulate it, transform into it... some of my favourite fight scenes involve her, so it's always a shame when she gets knocked out or incapacitated before even getting started. The animation is some of the coolest I've ever seen. I love the character and the magic, not to mention the scenery and moods that the animators create.
Then there's the soundtrack, if only they put the same energy into the writing as they did the soundtrack! The score is just breathtaking. Hooks all over the place. Strings to make a grown man weep at just the right moment. It's very folksy and reminds me of the Game of Thrones theme tune. Perhaps the person who wrote for GoT got the inspiration from Fairy Tail?
The other awesome factor involves the characters. Although they're criminally underused at times, they are all different and all memorable. Each of them have strengths and weaknesses and quirks and, surprising for a serial cartoon (or any series for that matter), they're yet to become plot devices. They remain true to themselves throughout. The only issue I have is that, when one of them seemingly sacrifices themselves for the good of the guild (and it happens a lot), the awesome soundtrack kicks in and it seems like someone is about to bite the bullet. But then it turns out they were only knocked out... I mean, if you're gonna be knocked out, you probably don't need to make such a song and dance of it.
So, despite some bad writing flaws and a fair bit of unoriginal writing, Fairy Tail is still one of my favourite animes. I'm constantly saying, "just one more" so they must be doing something right, right?
The Purge (2013)
confused and not fully explored
Such a terrific idea gone to waste. It's happened before and it will probably happen again. Sadly, with all its "Funny Games," "Assault on Precinct 13" and "Them" influences, it manages to be nothing more than a boring, cliché-ridden, confused mess.
The premise is simple; one night a year, for 12 hours, the population of the USA have the legal right to commit any crime they desire, including murder. One man and his family have gotten rich off this programme by selling security systems to his rich neighbourhood. This year he's going to get his comeuppance.
what could follow is a film that explores the money made on fear and the conspicuous consumption ideology of middle class America and Europe. It's also fun to watch the bourgeoisie get what's coming to them. Instead, shortly after the 'Purge' commences, most sense and ideas go out the window: the writers can't even come up with a decent villain.
As soon as the 'Polite Leader' of the freaks arrives, gurning at the Ethan Hawke's terrified James through CCTV, all tension is lost. We know exactly how it will pan out and, unsurprisingly, that's exactly how it pans out. Except, well, the whole Ethan Hawke having awesome combat skills for some lily-livered business man. There's barely a whiff of danger and no game of chess played between hunter and hunted. Unlike other home invasion films (the aforementioned ones as well as "Panic Room," in particular), the main characters here seem to have every idea of what is happening and every idea of how to prevent it. There's also very little to fight for in this film; Jodi Foster and Naomi Watts were both fighting for their families in their films and the poor couple in "Them" were fighting just to stay alive. Ethan Hawke, however charismatic, isn't fighting for the justice or injustice of "The Purge," his belief in the system is never clarified and he certainly doesn't seem to be fighting for his family seeing as they all seem too cosy and miserable in their massive home.
Sadly, the writers don't know what to do with their cast and characters disappear and reappear on a whim, doing very little but pushing the film towards an inevitable climax. There's a homeless man who puts the gears in motion and some neighbours who are/aren't the family's saviours but they're all so inconsistent. This could have played like a more violent Hitchcock film or at the very least a smarter version of "Mother's Day" but fails in both aspects - too loose and underdeveloped for Hitchcock and too lacking in conviction and horror to be "Mother's Day." The fact that the main antagonist is cornier than Blowfeld makes the whole thing even harder to stomach - was he aiming for Michael Pitt in "Funny Games?"
All in all, the film ends criticising the violence it is based on making the protagonists nothing more than a bunch of cowards who are too afraid to stand up for their convictions. I sincerely doubt that this is the film they wanted to make.