Can this writer pull off one of the more ambitious concepts I’ve seen all year?

Genre: Thriller
Premise: (from IMDB) If on one night every year, you could commit any crime without facing consequences, what would you do? Over the course of a single night, a family will be tested to see how far they will go to protect themselves when the vicious outside world breaks into their home.
About: Writer James DeMonaco got his career started by writing the 1996 Robin Williams vehicle, Jack, about a child who ages four times faster than other children. He went on to write The Negotiator and the remake of Assault on Precinct 13 and executive produce the TV version of “Crash.” He appears to have a good relationship with Ethan Hawke as they’ve been involved in several projects together (Assault, Little New York, and now The Purge). DeMonaco made his directing debut with Little New York, and appears to be going a lot darker with his sophomore effort. The Purge stars Ethan Hawke and comes out later this summer.
Writer: James DeMonaco
Details: 94 pages (July 6, 2011 draft)

The-Purge-Poster

I was very confused while reading this. The story was compelling, packed with conflict, explored its characters, moved along quickly, all things you’d expect to see from a professional screenwriter, yet it instituted the “WALL OF TEXT” method of writing, with endless paragraphs dominating every page. Okay, maybe not “endless.” They were 4-6 lines long. But if you pack enough 4-6 line paragraphs together, the task of reading becomes unbearable. It takes twice as long as it should to get through every page. So I was wondering why someone who so clearly understood drama and how to craft a story was making such a basic mistake.

Ohhhhhh, I said when I did research on the writer – he was directing the script too. Now it made sense. The director wanted to be as specific as possible so he could remind himself what he was trying to do when filming began. Well, don’t let that fool the rest of you spec writers. If you’re not directing your own material, you want to keep it lean – way leaner than this.

Now heading into The Purge, I was dying to figure out one thing – how the hell they were going to pull off this premise. One of the things you’re taught when you first start writing is the idea of “suspension of disbelief.” You have to create a scenario that an audience will buy into, that they’ll “suspend their disbelief” for. If you make it too hard for people to believe in your story, nothing else matters. They check out before the story’s even begun.

And this idea had “disbelief” written all over it. Under what circumstances would a country willingly allow its people to rape, maim, torture and kill for 12 hours a year? Well, the script answers that question in a semi-satisfactory way in that it introduces a world pretty foreign to our own. We’ve gone through TWO more world wars (not just one), which has left the U.S. government money-strapped. They agree to be bought out by one of the largest corporations in the world, who then go to work on solving the biggest problem on the planet – crime.

They realize that we, as humans, commit crime, in part, due to our biological needs. We are a savage species, and therefore need that outlet. That’s how the company, Arcon, comes up with the idea to “purge” this need once a year, for 12 hours. It’s a bit of a stretch but DeMonaco is a good writer. His attention to detail and the extensive backstory behind the corporation and how it operates makes the situation fairly believable.

The story centers around James Sandin’s upper class family. James lives in a perfect suburban community with his wife, Mary, his 16 year old rebellious daughter, Zoe, and his bizarre 12 year old son, Charlie. James sells upscale home security systems, almost specifically for that one night a year of The Purge. His security system basically turns a house into a fortress, and it isn’t just others’ homes he does this for. He’s fortified his own house with the Purge Stopper as well.

And you know what? That fortress works. What James has to worry about, however, are the members of his OWN family. As The Purge begins, James quickly finds out that Zoe’s boyfriend, Henry, is hiding inside the house so he can kill him, his logic being that James is preventing Henry and Zoe from being together.

Then his semi-retarded son, Charlie, notices a bruised and bloodied man running from, what he assumes to be, hunters, and actually OPENS THE DOOR for him. So now we have crazy Henry the boyfriend inside AND this mysterious bloodied stranger. As James tries to get a handle on the situation, Henry tries to kill him. James survives, but this allows the stranger to disappear into the house.

Soon after, a band of 20-somethings dressed in some really spooky outfits surround the Sandin house and begin demanding the release of the victim (our mysterious stranger). If James doesn’t return him alive, they will infiltrate the house and kill everyone in it. This task is made harder when Charlie rebels against his father and helps the stranger hide. And then when a third faction of people move in to also have their way with the Sandins, we get a front row seat to just how crazy The Purge can get.

Okay, first thing’s first. When you have a really big concept, it’s my belief that your first scene must represent that concept! You have to show off why the concept is so awesome and therefore why we should keep reading. This is a movie about people being able to commit crimes unimpeded. So this movie should’ve started with someone performing some horrifying crime on the streets, doing something unimaginable to someone, and a police officer standing nearby just watching, not doing anything. Show off your darn premise in that opening scene!

On to the actual story. The Purge was pretty good. But here’s my issue with it. When you’re doing something dark, you gotta go dark. If you go that “safe dark,” it always feels a little cheap. What I mean is, James kills someone in the early part of the story, as he’s participating in the Purge. But it turns out the guy WANTS to be killed because he has cancer and wants the life insurance to go to his family. He’s willingly offered himself to be killed. I think it would’ve been more interesting if our main character took full advantage of this day and committed some horrifying crime himself. Now I know how difficult that would be. It makes our hero “unlikable,” but you have to figure out a way around that. This is such a nasty premise. If you’re tip-toeing around it, you’re not getting the most out of it.

But the reason it still works is because DeMonaco knows how to keep the story moving (despite the wall of text). He does a great job building the suspense. We know the Purge is coming and we know it’s going to be crazy. So that first act zips along. Then when the Purge arrives and we find out Zoe’s boyfriend is in the house to kill James, things pretty much motor along from there. There is literally never a dull moment. Something is ALWAYS happening. And that’s not easy to do when you contain your story to a single location the whole movie.

To be honest, where The Purge starts to stumble is that TOO MUCH starts to happen. I mean we end up having four different factions looking to Purge at one point, and instead of achieving the desired chaos the script is going for, it just begins to feel sloppy. I’m not saying it’s bad. I just noticed my attention starting to wander. And the third act is where the reader’s attention should be its most focused, not its least.

I also had a huge problem with Charlie, the 12 year old son. I love when writers add depth to their characters, give them quirks and characteristics that make them stand out, that make them unique. But if those characteristics are never explained, the character ends up feeling false, like they were added to check some screenwriting book boxes, not because they were required for the story. Charlie “layers” here. He wears like 4 or 5 shirts and underwear at a time. A big deal is made out of this early on, so you’re expecting to get an explanation at some point. But it never comes. I also didn’t understand why he was so adamant about letting this criminal into the house, then hiding him, even though he understood that doing so meant his entire family would be slaughtered. It’s not like we experience some early scene where we see how important life is to Charlie. We instead get him putting on 20 t-shirts…????? This character just needed some damn explanation. You can’t create a weird character for the sake of creating a weird character.

But in the end, this “Hunger Games” meets “Funny Games” concoction has just enough to keep us entertained. I just wish the story was a little cleaner in the final act.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: This is a GREAT reminder that a cheap-to-shoot high concept idea will always be the most likely spec to sell. This idea is huge, yet its contained to one house. Someone was guaranteed to buy and make this, even if the writer wasn’t the director.

  • Poe_Serling

    Another possible Smackdown opportunity for Carson…

    The Purge vs. Grim Night

    Both projects have the basic premise of one night of unstoppable violence per year, a family trapped in their home, and so on.

    I give the nod to Grim Night. I was more intrigued with the supernatural elements of that script… but hey, that’s just me.

    Also, format-wise, The Purge has some long descriptive paragraphs, and the WRITER is CAPS crazy… no RHYME or reason to HIS madness.

    • MayfieldLake

      I too kept thinking of similar but different to Grim Night

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      GRIM NIGHT ! Yes, I just revisited that post ‘cos I seem to remember really liking that one. And you’re right, it would make for a good smackdown :-) My vote would also go to GRIM NIGHT because the supernatural element takes off the gritty edge of the realism in this. I haven’t read the wole script, I must admit, but lately, I have a real problem with mindless violence plastered all over the screen. There’s enough all around us every that I prefer real escapism in my movies plus I always find it a bit weird to pile on the violence in order to denounce it. Why show it in all its glorious detail, then ? I react better to the psychological aspect of things but, hey, to each their own :-)

      • ripleyy

        Grim’s tone was its downfall because it was like a really, really mature Disney film at times and a horror the next. But I remember liking it also.

        • Andrew Mullen

          It had a widely shifting tone that annoyed me, but that first half before they go to the lair of the Grims was killer.

      • Poe_Serling

        “… react better to the psychological aspect …”

        Same here. I gravitate toward films/scripts that produce a sense of dread and tension to creep me out. A few of my favorites: Dark Water, Lake Mungo, The Others, and The Changeling with George C. Scott.

    • ThomasBrownen

      Grim Night is a great comparison! I remember thinking that the script really failed to live up to its premise, but I still remember much of its story, so in hindsight, I think that script did better than I thought.

      I haven’t read The Purge, but my initial reaction to it, much like The Hunger Games, is that I’m not sure I can get past the premise. It’s like someone sat down, said let’s do something high concept in a dystopian future, and then tried to justify it after the fact. But… I’m not sure I can get past that.

      • Poe_Serling

        Agree. Grim Night didn’t blow my socks off, but its story is still lingering in my brain pan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carson-Daves/100003247228938 Carson Daves

    This has to be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Makes absolutely no sense.

  • cjob3

    The trailer for this seems quite silly. They go to great lengths to establish this crazy premise and all for what? To have a buncha crazy guys in masks trying to break into a guys house. Basically, Panic Room, The Strangers, Assault on Precinct 13, etc. The same effect could have been achieved by the bad guys cutting their phone lines.

    Plus, there’s no emergency services on Purge night? So what if an old lady falls and breaks a hip? Or a woman goes into labor? You’re just screwed because it’s crime night?

    • ff

      Agreed. Sounds freaking stupid to me as well.

    • http://twitter.com/JohnBostonfilm John Boston

      It seems like the producers didn’t care about simple logic and believability because the tagline they could use for the movie poster sounded cool.

    • Michael

      Why would you even wear masks if it is legal, other than the director thought it would be a cool scary visual to add to the film? It defeats the premise. The premise may work in the script, it doesn’t in the trailer.

  • DrMatt

    Sounds a lot like a riff on the original Assault on Precinct 13, which is funny considering the writer’s previous credits. Guy invokes wrath of gang of thugs, seeks shelter in shut-down police station. Gang of thugs lays siege to police station in increasingly brutal ways.

    I love siege movies but this premise might be too absurd to get behind…nah, who am I kidding, I’ll go see this. But I probably would find it more interesting if the main character had been someone out on the streets, someone without the bells and whistles of a panic house, someone more relatable. It’s almost as if the writer really just wanted a reason for people to attack the main character’s house en masse, and chose this premise, whereas fully exploring this premise through a different character’s viewpoint might be far more interesting and far more satirical and/or critical of our current society, especially given the rise in national-news-level violent crime.

  • fragglewriter

    The weird character explanation is a good refresher that he has to be weird/quirky for a reason and not for shock value.

    I think containment films work well when you have the outside tying to get in or trying to keep the containment contained.

  • ripleyy

    Every writer needs a “palm-in-your-hand” moment, a moment where the writer has the audience/reader *exactly* where he/she wants them, and manipulates their emotions. The Purge had one or two moments but I think what lacked was the disappointment that the premise was never fully achieved.

    If you have a premise like this one – an idea that is so good – it has to be completely and utterly milked to death to achieve the best result. Imagine the insanity you could have with The Purge, a couple trying to make their way home during The Purge, a Religious Family trying to survive…the ideas are bountiful but the premise – at least in this – lacks.

    I hope this isn’t a shooting draft because I’ll be watching the hell out of this.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnBostonfilm John Boston

    Pg-13 or R? Obviously sounds R but I wouldn’t be surprised if it stayed light dark just so it could eek out a pg-13

    • Citizen M

      R-rated according to IMDb.

  • Scott Strybos

    Has all crime in this world been eradicated? Because it seems like, from the review at least, these crazy factions that are attacking the family are psychotic to begin with, and they don’t really need “Purge Night” to kill or terrorize someone. So the night all this happens seems to be inconsequential. Are the mobs made up of regular people?

  • Malibo Jackk

    Isn’t “purge” another word for “vomit”?

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      It is an unfortunate title but I think it means “to drain” more than vomit, no ?
      In French, “purge” is a word used for describing something as a “steaming pile of crap”.

    • Citizen M

      An ugly word for an ugly movie, and an appropriate title.

      verb. cleanse – purify – clean – clear – refine – scour
      noun. purification – cleaning – purgative – purgation

  • Andrew Mullen

    Carson, you are 100% spot on with “safe dark”. Not only is a copout, it’s hypocritical. It was the same thing with Hall Pass. They want to dip the toe in the water and act like they went skinny dipping.

    I also think there’s a huge dramatic irony opportunity that’s being missed. Here’s a family guy whose very livlihood depends on people being so terrified of what might could go down, they buy his fortresses. He NEEDS this day. To provide for his family. That he then needs to protect from the night that provides them their life. That’s a really meat contradaction to explore.

    Or what if he not only depends on The Purge to feed his wife and kids, but also loves it. Start the movie with him doing some horrible things. Then we spend the rest of the movie going, “Not so hot when its being done to YOU is it, Chief?”

    Either way it’s been a rough week here and I just didn’t have the stomach to read about horrible people doing horrible things. It’s a great concept and I thumb up it based on that alone, but I am just drained right now.

  • Andrea Moss

    ‘So this movie should’ve started with someone performing some horrifying crime on the streets, doing something unimaginable to someone, and a police officer standing nearby just watching, not doing anything. Show off your darn premise in that opening scene!’

    I got a better opening scene, I believe. We start with night footage from a CCTV camera showing a cop shooting people from his car in a desert parking lot without consequences. Chilling. And then, credits.

    ‘I think it would’ve been more interesting if our main character took full advantage of this day and committed some horrifying crime himself. Now I know how difficult that would be. It makes our hero “unlikable,” but you have to figure out a way around that.’

    Agree. I think it could be more believable if James had killed a man for vengeance, like some tug who had raped his wife during the last Purge and he had spent the last year tracking down the criminal using his own skills as a security expert. Remember: always make the job of your hero relevant to the plot.

    ‘I also didn’t understand why he was so adamant about letting this criminal into the house, then hiding him, even though he understood that doing so meant his entire family would be slaughtered.’

    I think if Charlie was in the script, for example, a child bullied at school, the audience could understand that he sympathize with another human being in the same situation and felt compelled to act despite the risks.

    Sorry for the rant. James DeMonaco is one of my favorite writers (The Negotiator and Assault on Precinct 13 are some of the nest thrillers I’ve seen), but I always want to run the extra mile :).

    • ChristianSavage

      These are all great suggestions, Andrea. You seem to know your way around a setup. Hope we get to read your work sometime.

    • blue439

      If you just showed a cop killing people he would just be a rogue cop and they have been done to death. Also, cops/soldiers already are kinda licensed to kill anyway so it wouldn’t really illustrate the Purge night world the writer is trying to express. I like your other suggestions, though.

    • John Bradley

      If it’s crime night, wouldn’t the cops have the night off?

      • http://twitter.com/carlosybarra2 carlos ybarra

        The playground where everybody can play, man. No rules.

    • SinclareRose

      Hi Andrea, Can I ask you a question? sinclarerose@yahoo.com

  • grendl

    Every night is “purge” night in America.

    Kids who shoot up movie theatres, schools filled with children, bombing marathons.

    Alienated souls desensitized to the horrible acts they commit and the repercussions they have on others.

    That smirking girl who slit her boyfriends throat feeling fully justified because she didn’t like the way he talked to her. Or the prosecutor for that matter.

    The premise here is one of understatement. Limiting the rampant violence already so prevalent in America to one night is really robbing the movie going public of 364 other nights, just rife for bloodshed.

    • JakeBarnes12

      See Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the carnivalesque for the history of controlled release of primal urges (specifically his book Rabelais and his World).

      I agree, however, that the idea for this movie is dumb.

      • http://twitter.com/JohnBostonfilm John Boston

        I think the only controlled release of a primal urge that actually releases a subconscious or conscious desire is a good old fashioned Blood orgy. I’m saying this from personal experience.

        • JakeBarnes12

          Oh, believe me, John, my girlfriend and I know all about blood orgies.

          It started several years ago when we met a real vampire girl in a cigar store in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

          I kid you not.

          • http://twitter.com/JohnBostonfilm John Boston

            I already know you’re lying because vampire blood orgies are a completely homosexual event. So if you brought a girl with you then these clearly were NOT REAL vampires.

          • JakeBarnes12

            Sorry to burst your bubble, man, but she was a bona fide girl and a bona fide vampire.

            Be sure to check out Black Bull cigars next time you’re in New Orleans.

        • Citizen M

          I’ve been in Austria during Fasching. For a week, anything goes. The apfel schnapps flows and people misbehave. Then for the next 51 weeks they pretend nothing happened and are model citizens again. It’s their way of letting off steam and coping with winter.

    • GeneralChaos

      How profound. You should write some spoken-word poetry.

    • blue439

      Yes, the purge aspect of this would actually work much better in a place where violence is suppressed, therefore the need to purge. In America violence ISN’T suppressed, so no need to purge. If this took place in say, a futuristic UK, where bobbies don’t carry firearms and gun control is rigidly enforced this would make a lot more sense. Hitchcock would love this. The Purge aspect and the home invasion aspect don’t quite dovetail to me. If the purge was removed entirely a family fighting off a home invasion would still work — no need for the far-fetched concept except to grab attention.

      • filmklassik

        While the UK does boast a lower murder rate than the U.S, it has, according to many studies, a higher rate of “violent crime” than we do.

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-25671/Violent-crime-worse-Britain-US.html

        • http://twitter.com/kinnygraham Graham

          1. That article is from around 2001. It’s twelve years old.
          2. It’s from the Daily Mail, a tabloid newspaper with broadsheet pretensions which is notorious for distorting the facts around crime. It’s raison d’être is to make middle class English people feel scared about ‘the underclass’, the ‘working class’, and generally distrustful of any European (note please that the Daily Mail does not like to admit that the UK might indeed be also European – perish the thought) whom they might be unfortunate enough to encounter.

          In other words – I’d read that article with a large pinch of salt.

          • filmklassik

            1) Well, the U.S crime rate was actually HIGHER back in 2001, but let’s forget about the Daily Mail for a moment…

            2) — because here is another source that, one hopes, can be enjoyed sodium-free:

            http://www.ebaumsworld.com/media/embed/83000726

      • witwoud

        “In America violence ISN’T suppressed…”

        Huh?

    • filmklassik

      Grendl — I am trying to reconcile your post with what for you is bound to be an uncomfortable truth, that the U.S. murder rate is actually HALF of what it was 30 years ago and is still going down.

      I am going to say that again because it bears repeating. There are literally HALF as many murders in the U.S today as there were in 1980 when the murder rate was 10.7 murders per 100,000 people.

      Today, grendl? Today that number is 4.7 murders per 100,000.

      Did you catch that? Here it is again. 4.7 murders per 100,000 versus 10.7 just three decades ago.

      So I seem to have mispoke a moment ago and I apologize. The murder rate is actually LESS THAN HALF of what it was 30 years ago.

      Interesting, wouldn’t you say?

      In fact the U.S. murder rate in 2011 was the lowest it has been — the LOWEST it has been — since 1961, back when cars had tail fins, no one had ever heard of the Beatles, and JFK was in the White House.

      And furthermore — check this out, grendl — in only five years since 1910 has the murder rate been LOWER than it is right now… and that was in the late 50s when the rate was only SLIGHTLY lower, at 4.5 murders per 100,000.

      So, long story short, the United States has rarely been SAFER than it is right now. Which raises the question, Why are folks like you still sounding the alarm?

      James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston, offers one explanation:

      “Recent Gallup polls have found that citizens overwhelmingly feel crime is going up even though it is not,” Professor Fox told the Christian Science Monitor. “This is because of the growth of crime shows and the way that TV spotlights the emotional. One case of a random, horrific shooting shown repeatedly on TV has more visceral effect than all the statistics printed in a newspaper.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carson-Daves/100003247228938 Carson Daves

        The percentage rate of crime may have gone down but not necessarily the number of crime if you factor in population growth.

        • filmklassik

          But it’s ALL ABOUT percentages, Carson. Nothing else matters. Here, maybe the following example will help to illustrate my point.

          Let’s say you live in a small town of 100 people, and 20 of them get shot next year.

          I, on the other hand, live in a big town. We have a MILLION people, and 40 of them get shot next year.

          So you have 20 shootings, and I have 40.

          Ask yourself: Which one of us lives in the safer town?

          You, because your town saw half the number of shootings that mine did?

          Or me, because the total number of shootings represents just a tiny fraction of my town’s population?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carson-Daves/100003247228938 Carson Daves

            I’m talking about the amount of crime itself, not relative “safety”. Percentages doesn’t mean anything when you’re walking through say… Detroit in the middle of the night. It’s not all about percentages.

          • filmklassik

            Sorry, but percentages mean EVERYTHING when you are walking through Detroit in the middle of the night.

            Here, take 4 seconds. You don’t need to read the whole article if you don’t want to (although you should), just take a gander at the headline:

            http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/04/16352612-weve-lost-respect-for-life-detroit-records-deadliest-year-in-decades?lite

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carson-Daves/100003247228938 Carson Daves

            I don’t see how that proves your case. Are you saying that the percentage rate indicating the growing safeness in America matters when you’re walking through a city with a high number of crime like Detroit?

          • filmklassik

            Detroit is, statistically speaking, a small but dangerous part of a relatively safe country.

            You always can talk about dangerous pockets of the U.S. These have always existed, and likely always will.

            But American society overall is much, MUCH safer now.

          • grendl

            What were the percentages of those three people being blown up at the Boston Marathon exactly?

            Do you think they were safe, because things are safer today than thirty years ago?

          • filmklassik

            Do I think they were safe? Of course not. Neither were the dozens upon dozens of other people who got maimed in those explosions.

            But I’m not sure what your point is, grendl.

            Norway has an amazingly low crime rate. In fact it’s murder rate was just .6 people murdered per 100,000 in 2009. But of course, Anders Breivik killed 77 people there in 2011.

            So according to you, I suppose every night must be “purge” night in Norway, too, correct?

            And if not, why not?

          • Citizen M

            Good point. Say the population in your area doubles and the number of crimes doubles. The crime rate is the same, statistically.

            But twice the number of crimes will get reported in the newspapers. From the point of view of the reader, the area now seems to be twice as dangerous.

            People react to perceptions, not statistics.

          • filmklassik

            But Citizen, the U.S. murder rate is half of what it was in 1980 but the population hasn’t doubled since then.

            In fact it only went up by about 50% — from 200 million to 300 million.

            So even though we have more people now… more actual, physical people than we did in 1980…

            –there are fewer actual murders.

            So forget percentages for a second. The U.S. has more people, and fewer murders.

            So following your train of thought… from the point of view of the typical “newspaper reader” (not that anybody reads newspapers anymore) why doesn’t the U.S seem LESS dangerous than it did back in the day?

            (Glib answer: “Maybe the newspaper reader wasn’t alive back then.” Okay, I’ll admit, that’s a funny answer… but maybe there’s a more useful one.)

  • Jonathan Soens

    It’s a tough premise to buy into. Just so hard to get past that sense of “Wait, what? Crime is just randomly legal for one night a year?”

    Then again, I had the same reaction to the acclaimed Batman video game “Arkham City,” which begins with the premise that huge portions of Gotham City have been walled off and filled with the kind of crazy criminals who previously would have occupied the Arkham Asylum for criminally insane. And everybody had no problem getting past that premise and just “rolling with it.” So, I guess an “out there” kind of premise can still be digested by audiences fairly easily if you sell it right and do a good job of sucking them in.

    • JakeBarnes12

      I LOVE “Arkham City,” but to be honest, video game hounds are just jonesin’ to get to the controls; coherent story matters less.

      In a movie, you’re just sitting there, not personally taking part in the action, so more time to go “hey, wait a minute, how did….?”

      • Jonathan Soens

        It is just a video game, sure, but everybody who raves about those games specifically talks about loving the story and the world those games featured.

    • witwoud

      Huge portions of Gotham City have been walled off and filled with criminals? I can buy that. It’s just a larger prison, right?

      • ArabyChic

        Yeah, that premise actually makes sense. This makes no sense.

    • ripleyy

      Would have been interesting if crime was legal for an entire week. Now you’ve got a lot to worry about. Or maybe it’s legal for a day, and then they decide to make it legal for the next day or something.

    • filmklassik

      “‘Arkham City,’ which begins with the premise that huge portions of Gotham City have been walled off and filled with the kind of crazy criminals who previously would have occupied the Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane.”

      Hmmm. Maybe I’m seeing big similarities where only small ones exist, but isn’t that pretty much the same premise as ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK?

  • ArabyChic

    I just can’t get past the concept. Not only does the logline make no sense but the more detailed pitch as well. Science Fiction – if this can be called science fiction – is about making the strange mundane and the mundane strange. We need to be able to see the truth in it and how it reflects our lives. I don’t see anything resembling truth here.

  • witwoud

    Nah. Premise too silly. Nobody with a grain of sense could believe in it. And all for a basic home-invasion story? That’s pretty inelegant story-telling.

    I say, keep it believable:

    Zombies? Fine.
    Aliens? Yup.
    Gangs? No problem.
    A once-a-year, government-sanctioned night of rape and murder? What a load of hoooey!

  • http://twitter.com/LisaAldin Lisa Aldin

    What ever happened to C.L.O.T.H.?

    I think that log line won some kind of contest on this site a long time ago. The premise was something like everyone was allowed to murder one person or something like that? I know a lot of people questioned the believability too but it certainly intrigued many. As for The Purge, it’s incredibly disturbing but the trailer looks a little watered-down from the script. Like they are going to be aiming for PG-13?

  • jridge32

    The boyfriend hiding in the house to kill the dad seems like an interesting plot device. I haven’t read this, yet, so I don’t know — hopefully it’s explained how the guy’s daughter feels about that. Does she hate her dad, too, and go along with it? Otherwise, would the boyfriend have tried to reason with her, like David at the end of “Fear”?

  • Crazdwrtr

    This reminds me of Trigger Effect from the 90s. Similar concept — but instead of contained in one house, it’s more of a road movie. Very good movie from what I remember. Will have to check this script out.

    Trigger Effect: When the lights go out and stay out for several days, suburbanites
    Matthew and Annie learn the hard way that man is “by nature” a predatory creature.

    • Poe_Serling

      Trigger Effect was nspired by the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.”

      “On a peaceful suburban street, strange occurrences and mysterious people stoke the residents’ paranoia to a disastrous intensity.”

      • crazedwriter

        Of course, you would know this Poe! Thanks for dropping some knowledge on me.

  • filmklassik

    Curious that no one’s mentioned the OTHER antecedent for this story, which is STRAW DOGS, from 1971 (and the less said about the recent piss-poor remake, the better) which also had an “Ordinary Joe” homeowner trying to protect his home from thugs trying to gain entry – -thugs who also, by the way, are demanding that said homeowner release the poor sap who has taken shelter inside.

    So, yes, there are numerous parallels to STRAW DOGS and John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (which was itself an updating of Howard Hawks’ RIO BRAVO, which Hawks himself reworked at least two more times, and backwards reels the mind).

    Great review Carson, as usual, but I respectfully disagree with your assessment that –

    “– it would’ve been more interesting if our main character took full advantage of this day and committed some horrifying crime himself. …This is such a nasty premise. If you’re tip-toeing around it, you’re not getting the most out of it.”

    I’m not sure it is necessary for the protagonist be a nasty sonofabitch himself in order for the writer to have properly “mined” this idea — but that’s just me.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Watched Straw Dogs (the remake) just a couple days ago.
      The original was a film. The remake — a product.

  • peisley

    Might as well put my “what a stupid idea” in as well.

  • filmklassik

    “Perception is everything. Your stats mean nothing when a parent doesn’t feel safe watching their kid get on a school bus.”

    No, perception is NOT everything. Perception when not supported by the facts will often lead to panic, paranoia, and mass hysteria.

    Which is the working definition of Terror.

    But you do not combat Terror by saying, “Every night is purge night in America.”

    You combat Terror with the calming power of Reason. You point out, correctly, that this country is actually SAFER than it has been in several decades, and getting safer still.

    Of course one needs to use caution in one’s daily life (locking doors; being vigilant; instructing children not to talk to strangers, etc) but the trend line would indicate that America is getting safer every year.

  • jlugozjr

    I think the logline is interesting, but the trailer looks so underwhelming.

    Take a look at the trailer for You’re Next. It’s a home invasion, but someone inside is setting traps for the intruders. Now THAT looks cool.

    The trailer for The Purge looks generic. It looks like Panic Room.

    The logline is irrelevant, this movie is basically The Stangers.

    Most important lesson for today–

    If you want to SELL a screenplay write something that is THE SAME THING ONLY DIFFERENT.

  • rosemary

    i wanna see how different it will be in the final product. so far the trailers are interesting

  • MrTibbsLive

    I let this one go after 30 pages. The script had too many things working against it for me to read on.

    FYI: The daughter’s boyfriend wanting to kill the father so they could be together…that actually happened several years ago in my hometown. A teenager killed his girlfriend’s mother and father because they disapproved of their relationship.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Was that a town of 100,000?

      • MrTibbsLive

        Population 75,000. The boyfriend didn’t burn down the house and the investigation didn’t suggest the daughter was in on it.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Sorry. My bad.
          (The 100,000 was a reference to crime statistics.)

    • Tor Dollhouse

      Im dying to read this and would love a copy:
      tordollhouse@gmail.com (please & thank you)

  • Citizen M

    Only for die-hard horror fans, which excludes me.

    - I think the premise might have been better motivated. The phrase “the right to purge” is repeated five times in the script, but it’s never explained. I though some sort of TV advert or documentary could remind citizens what their rights were, and show clips from previous successful purges that resulted in the deaths of baddies.

    I would convey the message, “Every bad guy has people who know he’s a bad guy, but they’re afraid to act against him. Well, tonight is your chance. Purge the poison from your life. You don’t have to explain, just act. Arcon understands.” Also, the notion of a “Martyr” needs explanation.

    - Charlie needs a better reason for letting the stranger in. Perhaps the stranger can be dressed as some TV hero or something Charlie is familiar with and trusts.

    - The wife Mary used “fucking” far too many times. It seemed out of character.

    - The long paragraphs are necessary because the geography is important. We have to know where every character is at all times, and how they are moving. Longer paragraphs and shorter dialogue blocks are typical of action movies. Stylistically, they could be broken up into shorter paragraphs if the writer chose to write that way.

    - The Polite Leader sounds like a rip-off of Alex from A Clockwork Orange. I kept thinking, “Invent your own character, James DeMonaco.” I revere that book and movie and spit on all imitators.

    - Even if you accept the premise of the Purge, would people behave that way? I can understand wealthy families hunkering down, but surely they’d have security guards. As for dressing up in funny costumes, why bother? And I think we should have been tipped off that people use the Purge for self-gratification and settling old scores, not just for eliminating crime. Maybe dad could tell gruesome stories to his kids beforehand to scare them into obeying him.

    • Jonathan Soens

      You actually have a fun idea here.

      Instead of a story about people being allowed to commit crimes based on the premise that everybody has it inside of them and needs to get it out of their system, I like the idea of having a “free night” where you just encourage vigilantes to go take care of the real criminals and bad guys themselves. Like, in a world where law enforcement is overwhelmed and impotent, they try to foster a community (or small force) of vigilantes to do their dirty work for them.

      That would be an interesting idea to play with.

  • filmklassik

    “And no amount of rationalization will erase a live image of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center as it happens.”

    And my hope is that those images will NEVER be erased.

    But this conversation began with a discussion of the movie PURGE and the subject of violent crime.

    So getting back to violent crime…

    Are you willing to concede that — leaving aside “perceptions” and the way things might “seem” to us lately — that when it comes to real, actual, violent crime in this country, America is a much safer place now than it was 30 years ago?

  • Montana Gillis

    Bottom Line? I won’t give up 2 hours to see the execution of this premise. Yawn.

  • https://twitter.com/cmulliganauthor Chris Mulligan

    I think the Purge makes sense if the other 364 days are run with absolute draconian law. Like, death penalty for any and all crime. Then citizens are given this day as the break from that.

  • filmklassik

    “Are you saying reason can help us stave off acts of random violence btw?”

    Of course not (and when did I ever suggest as much?)

    “You think that nine year old boy could have avoided his death by knowing how vulnerable he was on the side of Boylston Street watching a marathon?”

    Not for a minute do I think that (and where are you getting this from?)

    “You cannot combat acts of random violence. And you cannot control the fear it instills in the public.”

    Well… duh. I’m not disputing that, either. (Who could POSSIBLY dispute that?) All I’m saying, and what you seem to be backpeddling away from (and I don’t blame you, by the way) is that your original contention that –

    “Every night is ‘purge’ night in America”

    – and its priceless follow-up —

    “Limiting the rampant violence already so prevalent in America to one night is really robbing the movie going public of 364 other nights, just rife for bloodshed”

    – are both patently insane.

    Despite what you indicated with your post, America is not currently in the midst of a non-stop Bastille Day. We are a big industrialized country of 300 milion where violence does occur, and will continue to occur, but it occurs at a rate much, MUCH lower than it has in years past (once again, the crime rate is HALF what it was just three decades ago) and that rate continues to decline.

  • filmklassik

    Then you’re in luck, Rocking. It’s a video, not an article. No reading necessary.

  • FD

    This concept seems snazzy for about one second, then you go, “huh? That’s just stoopid!”
    Also 95% of people don’t have a criminal bone in their body
    And the minority would spend all year planning 9 11s and then destroy society all in one night: silly.
    I could go on and on, but the ridiculousness of this premise just depresses me.

  • witwoud

    My Mom says he is.

  • Jonathan Soens

    Well, I neglected to mention that half the problem with the Batman example is that “Arkham City” was a sequel to “Arkham Asylum.” “Asylum” was a story set on an island where there is an asylum, and all the crazies got loose (but are ultimately contained because it’s an island and there’s really nowhere for them to go).

    Maybe you see the problem here, story-wise. In this world that’s already been established, you already have an island that contains nothing but a prison. Why not just dump them all on that island? The sequel just picks up years later (presumably) where they’ve already dumped all the prisoners into the walled-off sections of the city on the mainland (sacrificing a police station and a courthouse and a hospital and a church, among all the other things that were located in that area of the city). But how did that decision come about?

    Somebody, at some level of government, at some point, must have said something like this: “Gentlemen, as you know, we’ve got a problem on our hands. Our facilities for containing criminals are lacking. They broke free of their cells in the asylum and ran amok on the island. The solution is clear: let’s bring them over to the mainland. And rather than bother trying to contain them in cells or in locked buildings, let’s just turn them loose. I mean, of course we’ll build really tall walls around them, but they’ll generally be free to do whatever they want. All in favor, say ‘Aye.’” And apparently a lot of people must have said, “Aye,” because that’s the plan they went with.

  • Jonathan Soens

    My feeling on this is that I wish the story was about some confluence of events that led to a city being without any police for a day/night.

    I like the idea of crime being allowed to happen, and all the good people cowering in fear at the prospect that somebody might come for them. But I’d rather have a different reason why the crime is allowed to happen. Rather than it be because “crime is legal” I’d just rather see some clever explanation about the cops being unable to do anything.

    You’d have to come up with something good, but if you did, it’d really make the story work. I’m talking about an answer that’s so good that it makes the “Dark Knight Rises” story device (with all the police being trapped underground) jealous that they didn’t think of your idea first, because your idea would’ve been much better than what they did to remove all the police from the story.

    I’d still see the movie if it ever makes it to theaters in my small town, or go rent it on Redbox or whatever. Because it’s a fun idea. I just wish it was done slightly different, that’s all. Still sounds like a fun thing to watch, though.

  • ElectricDreamer

    Haven’t read the script. But based on Carson’s description…
    It does carry a heavy musk of Assault on Precinct 13 all over it.

    I’m a ginormous fan of Carpenter’s early work.

    And the 1976 low budget stunner still plays well today, IMHO.
    I mean who doesn’t want to see that cute little witch from Escape Mountain get blasted? ;)

    All movie rolodex jokes aside…

    The author of this script, wrote the 21st century remake of AoP13.

    And not it seems he’s cannibalized the second act of the original for his own spec?
    Ouch. That’s kinda like cutting off your own arm, and then selling it for cheap!

    The Cholo in the Carpenter original is the entire second act of the film.

    The bloodthristy street gang will stop at nothing for revenge. To the death!

    And I’m sorry, as described, The Purge sounds like a seriously deluded AoP13.
    High concept sheen won’t hold against the SIMPLE & RELATABLE premise Carpenter used.

    So, why bother at all then?

  • Cambias

    I absolutely cannot buy this premise. As described the society would last until the day after the first “Purge” at which point the lunatic regime which encourages mass chaos and violence would get a taste of mass chaos and violence. This is utterly idiotic.

  • Andrea Moss

    I was watching the trailer in YouTube, listening PJ Harvey’s ‘Written On The Forehead’ on my iPod with the lights off, and is 1000 % more spooky. Can’t wait!

  • http://twitter.com/KennyNOL Will Vega

    It wouldve been better if this was an event that was being built up and rumored to be happening in form of some retaliation to the government or event, like the LA riots. Rather than have it done once a year like some twisted federally mandated tradition that just doesnt make sense, no matter how you slice it.

    Then it would’ve been cool to see this family be one of the few that bought into the paranoia, only to have it for to their benefit. But then soon, their ideal situation starts falling apart. It could be the classic case of the neighbors who always laughed at them for buying into the paranoia, begging to get inside when it happens, then try to take over reigns in the “fort” while other more dangerous things are trying to get inside.

  • AdamG

    Is there anyone willing to share the script? Sounds intriguing. I have a ton of scripts to trade, if you’re into that thing. My email: black_eagle_movies@yahoo.com Please and thank you!

  • Citizen M

    This is a test.


    'Just some shit to see what happens';

  • Sullivan

    If someone can’t share the script, would someone explain how we are expected to follow these posts without having read it? Seems like a select few read the script and that’s it. Am I missing something?

  • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

    Re-read this review after seeing the film today.

    Seems like the script was better than the film. Don’t want to spoil much, but the film was very very forgettable, and a lot seems to have been cut from the script that (based on this review) would’ve made the film better. The son is still semi-retarded, but it’s simply annoying. Almost all of the backstory about the purge and the company behind it and everything was removed (the company is never mentioned).

    It’s just…. not a good movie. All I can say. Not awful, not good. Thus, forgettable.

  • somebody

    Please could you tell me where did you find the screenplay so I can read it. It is on the web? which link? I would really appreciate it, I´m really looking for to read this script but I haven´t been able to find it. Please help me out

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