It’s the Fourth of July, that proud annual tradition where, for one day, Americans regardless of creed, colour or political affiliation, can agree to put aside their differences to celebrate the shared national values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness overeating, day drinking and blowing shit up.
Today also marks the release of The First Purge, the latest entry in the hit horror franchise that envisions a not-distant-enough future where instead of coming together over backyard barbecues and M-80s for a day, Americans bond over murder parties and M-16s.
A prequel, The First Purge travels back in time to explore how it all began — it also happens to be the first movie in the series to be released into a post-Trump world. Which suddenly makes the franchise a whole lot more terrifyingly realistic, says Patch Darragh, who plays Arlo Sabian in the movie, the president’s chief of staff who is responsible for signing off on the very first Purge.
“The First Purge imagines that a new political party called the New Founding Fathers have come into power in the United States. And they’re a conservative party of nationalists,” he explains. “Given where we are right now in America, I think what’s really scary about it is just how plausible it feels.”
The Burlington-born actor even based his character off one (former) member of the Trump administration in particular: Anthony Scaramucci, who spent ten memorable days employed as Trump’s Communications Director, and got in more memorable sound bites in a week and a half than most White House employees do in four years. “Compared to some other people in the administration — especially our press secretary — [he’s] less combative, and more like, ‘Hey, I’m going to be your best friend,’ ” explains Darragh. “He can put a positive spin on anything.” Even 12 hours of state-sponsored murder.
So, considering these days, that Reagan-esque vision of America as a shining city on a hill is starting to look more like a fantasy world, while the fantasy world of the Purge franchise is starting to look more and more real, we asked Darragh to give us his picks for a few scary movies to help get you ready for The First Purge.
The Silence of the Lambs
“Silence of the Lambs is definitely one of my favourites. And has elements of horror, [even though] it’s probably considered more of a psychological thriller. But those movies, I think the thing that’s so scary about them is that they’re conceivable. They’re about real people, and you care about the characters, and there’s a premium set on the acting. I think one of the things that Blumhouse is doing is really ushering in a new era of filmmaking, where they have films that are horror films, but they have all those elements, of humor and real terror.”
“There’s no better example than Get Out, which was a zeitgeist movie that I believe will become part of the pantheon of classic films. I think we’ll still be talking about it 20 years from now, though hopefully it’ll become less and less a reflection of this country.”
Children of Men
“We all love the movies, like, ‘Don’t go into that barn!’ or even a movie like Jaws. But when it’s a situation — you see it on The Handmaid’s Tale too — when you see the whole world, and you think, ‘What would it be like? If that was the world today.’ And when you see your reality changing in ways that you feel like are sliding in that direction, I think it becomes a hell of a lot scarier than just being in a fantasy [world].”
All the President’s Men
“You could make an argument that All the President’s Men is actually a pretty scary movie. And God knows, in our lifetime, there will be movies made about this time in history that will probably run the gamut from screwball comedy to very scary horror movie. The First Purge is one of the first to really tap into that fear, and it’s the perfect franchise to do it.
I think the trick is, rather than focusing specifically on it, it’s more taking the temperature of the moment, and the angst of the country and saying, how can we use that, to weave that in, so people will see themselves in it and hopefully it’ll have a cathartic effect. And not make people go, ‘What’s so scary about that? I could turn on CNN and be a lot more terrified.’ ”
“I mean, it’s a funny movie, but… I have friends who are married and the next step would be for them to have kids, and they’re kind of stalling, saying, ‘I don’t know if I want to bring a child into this world.’ And it’s like, ‘Maybe you should.” [Laughs.] You know? Just the idea that we need to keep going and keep trying to pull the world forward and move it in a progressive way that is inclusive and less Purge-like.”
A Quiet Place
“I really loved A Quiet Place. I thought that was a stunner. It took this high-concept movie — we’re in a world where we can’t make any sound — but put such a deep, indelible human experience on what that does to a family. That really rocked me. It’s not often that you’re jumping out of your seat and then you’re crying the next minute. John Krasinski has obviously shown himself to be quite an incredible artist, to be able to create that and write it and direct it and star. I was pretty blown away by that.”
“I loved The Witch. Again, that’s just the world they live in, that’s the way they speak. These are the rules. That’s just the way it is. There’s no escaping, like, ‘Oh, well, this is just a fantasy.’ There’s some idea about community and paranoia and female power. All these things that I don’t know, why are they so scary to people? I thought that was incredible. That was the modern day Blair Witch, as far as I’m concerned.”