It's because Ethan Hawke, who I still think is one of the most underrated working actors today, chooses smart horror movies, playing characters whose intelligence supersedes their predicament. He's usually in a position of wonder and analysis, rather than your typical male hero who is more concerned with saving the day than examining what led to the singular event.
This time, the two-time Oscar nominee re-teams with his Sinister producer Jason Blum on THE PURGE, an similarly small budget thriller that chronicles the lives of four family members throughout the course of one night when all hell breaks loose, and there's not a cop in sight. More on the film below (from Collider):
If on one night every year, you could commit any crime without facing consequences, what would you do? In The Purge, a speculative thriller that follows one family over the course of a single night, four people will be tested to see how far they will go to protect themselves when the vicious outside world breaks into their home. In an America wracked by crime and overcrowded prisons, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity—including murder—becomes legal. The police can’t be called. Hospitals suspend help. It’s one night when the citizenry regulates itself without thought of punishment. On this night plagued by violence and an epidemic of crime, one family wrestles with the decision of who they will become when a stranger comes knocking. When an intruder breaks into James Sandin’s (Ethan Hawke) gated community during the yearly lockdown, he begins a sequence of events that threatens to tear a family apart. Now, it is up to James, his wife, Mary (Lena Headey), and their kids to make it through the night without turning into the monsters from whom they hide.
The film is written and directed by James DeMonaco, whose previous and only other directing credit is the little known 2009 film titled, Staten Island, New York (in which Hawke also starred). DeMonaco also wrote the 2005 remake of Assault on Precinct 13, starring Hawke.
I'm a sucker for movies that take place in one night (and, apparently, so is Hawke, who also starred in the 24-hour films, Training Day and had that looooong talk with Delpy in Before Sunrise). And I'm even more drawn to interesting horror films that aren't just about blood and gore, but actually have something to say.
According to the production notes, THE PURGE was inspired by a much larger picture of which DeMonaco reflects, “I wanted to get people talking about the violence in America. Our film has themes of class. In a way, the thought process comes from Hurricane Katrina and the government’s response, or lack of response, and how we treat the poor.”
Blum drives home the point in his recollection of DeMonaco's pitch: “James said he had written this script about how a corporation that is now running America is utilizing The Purge for criminals to get rid of each other, poor people to get rid of each other and the upper-class to get rid of the disenfranchised. I thought it was very provocative.”
This James Sandin character seems to be a fitting role for Hawke, who jumped at the chance to work with both DeMonaco and Blum again. "Jason [Blum] has a real old-school independent spirit, and that’s what I loved about working with him again," Hawke said. "The restrictions of independent film, in terms of budgeting, often breed real creativity. That was the case with The Purge.” I'll also add that smaller budget horror, done well, appears far more authentic.
I'm not familiar with Headey as an actress, but as a fan of TV's "Parenthood," I can vouch for Max Burkholder's talent (he plays Headey and Hawke's son in the film). I'm really looking forward to this.
If you haven't seen it, check out the trailer below:
And here are a few new images from the film:
|James Sandin (Ethan Hawke)|
|Zoe Sandin (Adelaide Kane)|
|The stranger who winds up at the Sandin residence (Edwin Hodge)|
|James and Mary Sandin (Hawke and Lena Headey)|
|The group of "psychotic celebrants" that terrorize the Sandins|
|The group's leader (Rhys Wakefield)|
|Charlie Sandin (Max Burkholder) and Mary (Headey)|
THE PURGE hits theaters June 7th.