Film, Partisan Cinema

Partisan Cinema: THE FIRST PURGE (2018) – Ultraconservative Horror to fear?

In a recurring feature called Partisan Cinema, A. J. Black looks at movies from a political slant, gleaning insight from them about how they relate to society then, and indeed now…

Given The First Purge is first and foremost a horror movie, this may seem like a redundant question. Blumhouse Productions naturally want us to be afraid of a picture designed to make audiences jump and scream, but The Purge franchise has never been simply a series of jump-scare horror films. The most recent prequel, depicting how the concept of the Purge came to be, presents a deeper, more existential question which, by the day, seems to grow in power.

Should we be scared that The First Purge could actually, in some form, one day happen?

The deeper sociological and political quandaries posed by Blumhouse and writer-director James DeMonaco’s franchise have always been more intriguing than the storytelling itself in these movies. Don’t get me wrong, after the somewhat listless 2013 entry that opened the franchise—which presented itself more in the vein of a home invasion horror in the wake of successes such as The Strangers or Funny Games, no doubt to accentuate The Purge along more of an axis horror fans had responded to in the past—the franchise has steadily with sequels Anarchy and Election Year evolved into more of a grotesque action-thriller/horror spectacle, and benefited from that direction.
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2000 in Film

FREQUENCY: a nostalgic sci-fi reverie of American family values (2000 in Film #17)

This year, 20 years on from the year 2000, I’m going to celebrate the first year of cinema in the 21st century by looking back at some of the films across the year at the turn of the millennium which took No #1 at the box office for their opening weekends.

This week, released on the weekend of April 28th, Gregory Hoblit’s Frequency  

As someone who is a sucker for a good time-travel yarn, Frequency scratched an itch for me as a viewer, even if it did so in more of a sedate manner than this sub-genre is used to.

When most people consider time-travel stories, certainly at the movies, their mind will go straight to the iconic staple of that genre: Back to the Future. There had been films concerning interlopers across time before, of course; 1962’s La Jetee, later remade as Twelve Monkeys, or earlier with George Pal’s seminal 1960 version of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and numerous after that, but Robert Zemeckis’ film sent time-travel into the cultural consciousness and made it *fun*. It added wonder to what has always been a knotty science-fiction concept, even when played for eccentricity or colour, as it was often on television particularly in the 1960’s with shows like Star Trek, Doctor Who or The Time Tunnel.

Frequency is a different texture of time-travel film because it not only takes the subject matter more seriously, but it frames the broader science-fiction concept underpinning it in overly non-science-fiction terms. Gregory Hoblit’s film is about loss, about coming to terms with the past, and about the desire and fantasy wish-fulfilment of changing your own personal history. Life didn’t pan out for Jim Caviezel’s John Sullivan the way he might have imagined after his heroic fireman father, Frank (played with all-American sincerity by Dennis Quaid), dies in a fire when he is just a little boy, and their strange, almost magical connection via an old CB radio—thanks to a mystical aurora borealis in the sky—gives them the chance to not just connect, but actively play around with temporal physics. It’s a personal father and son drama with time-travel trappings.

In that sense, Frequency owes a debt to anthology science-fiction such as The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, in attempting to ground the subject matter in a level of humanity. The message is simple: you *can* go home again.

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