Sunday, July 30, 2017

Los Ricos También Mueren aka The Rich Also Die

I must admit that I liked this movie far better when it was called The Most Dangerous Game. After all, the original Richard Connell short story by that name still manages to grip me in a way that its more recent remakes do not. Anyway, if you are going to dedicate a whole movie to the idea of people hunting people, why not call it The Most Dangerous Game?

Of course, writer/director James DeMonaco is not just interested in borrowing a gimmick from an old short story. He is out to make some serious social commentary -- which might explain why the working title for this movie was actually Vigilandia, a rather cool title which implies a similarity to the word Gringolandia, a not too flattering synonym for the USA which is rarely found outside of Frida Kahlo biographies. Unfortunately, it is a cooler title than the movie deserves which might be why the powers that be chose to change its name to the current title -- The Purge -- which sounds like the name of a documentary about Soviet Russia. Of course, a more accurate title might be Look at All the Scary White People, if not Stuff Scary White People Do. But the producers of this movie are not interested in accuracy or even believability, and it shows.

Thus the director spends more than a few minutes establishing that the nice neighborhood that male lead character James Sandin and his family live in is also a multiracial neighborhood, only to pile on a ton of stuff about scary black people later on in the film. He tries to establish one group of villains as the scariest folk since the Super Posse that pursued the title characters of the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, only to have them dispatched with surprising ease. And of course, he devotes the entirety of the movie to an implied message about the evils of wealth without one real glimpse of what life is like in the poor neighborhoods.

For what it is worth, the movie does manage to come up with some creepy images. Then again if one aims at a camera at a bunch of mask-wearing individuals carrying knives and guns, one would have to be a pretty bad cameraman not to capture any creepy images.

Besides, there is something shamelessly self-congratulatory about this movie which makes it hard to dismiss as just another B-movie with intellectual delusions of grandeur. Most people who have told me horror stories about their fellow men don't live in rich neighborhoods but in poor neighborhoods. Yet most American horror movies about home invasions inevitably focus on the rich so-and-so who doesn't deserve such a fate -- and not the poor so-and-so who encounters far worse trouble with little help from society. And although DeMonaco attempts to subvert this theme by making Sandin a rich salesman for security devices who ultimately witnesses the failure of the very devices which have previously proven to be his bread and butter, he shows as little interest in the fate of the poorer people with whom he supposedly identifies as his movie's villains do. The only difference, of course, is that the villains are more honest about it.

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