World War Z & The Purge
 
            The good news about zombie movies is that the viewer has accepted the premise by walking into the theater.  The bad news is that there’s not too many directions to go with it that haven’t already been done.  OK, once the zombies start taking over, preying on the panicked humans, do you find a way to destroy them?  Do you successfully quarantine them? (Usually not.)  Do you find a way for the good guys to overcome them, but still save at least part of the world?  Well, “World War Z” takes that course, but not before a lot of damage sustained worldwide.  Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane , a former government operative who manages to get himself and his family rescued by the surviving military, hanging out on the ocean in Navy ships, only to be sent back into harm’s way to try to find a cure.  It plays out like an epidemic that Robin Cook would have conjured up in a novel, and the biological solution sounds like one of his, also.  It’s very slick and suspenseful, but still, in the end…it’s a zombie movie.
            Now “The Purge” really is a different premise.  Ten years from now, the United States is enjoying a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity:  very low crime rates, very low unemployment, and we have virtually eliminated homelessness.  How?  Why “The New Founding Fathers” decided to institute a 12-hour time of Purge, every year, where the police and fire and emergency rescue just shut it down and disappear, and it’s open season.  You can go out and eliminate whomever you want, and the Law will not touch you.  It’s touted as a great way to blow off accumulated steam: to satisfy all the repressed anger and latent aggression.  And guess who are usually the victims?  You guessed it, the helpless and the hapless:  the homeless, the destitute, those who can’t afford to be hiding in their fortress-houses, and those who cannot protect or defend themselves.  What a wonderful world, right?  Just get rid of the riffraff and everything will be bucolic?
            Ethan Hawke plays James Sandin, a home-security system salesman who has, predictably, done remarkably well, selling his expensive product to a scared populace.  But though he has a wife who loves him, he has a teenage daughter who’s dangerously amorous with someone who does not meet with his approval, and his sensitive younger son doesn’t really understand how The Purge is a good thing, despite Dad’s patronizing explanations about the benefits to society.
            Do you remember that succinct little parable about The Holocaust?  To paraphrase:  We didn’t say anything when they came after the Jews, and the Gypsies, and the “mixed race mongrels,” and then when they came after us, there wasn’t anybody left to defend us.  Yes, “The Purge” is actually a prophetic message about creeping Fascism in the guise of a home-invasion drama.  Are there racist overtones?  Sure.  How could there not be?  But this cautionary tale reminds us of the inherent pitfalls in thinking that the world would be so much better off with only “our kind” in it.  “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15).
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas