'When the Subtext Becomes Text': 'The Purge' Takes on the American Nightmare

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Robin Wood’s suggestion that the American horror film of the 1970s was perhaps the most important of all American genres in its ability to express the rage and confusion of a nation in crisis has become an established critical frame through which to interpret the significance of horror cinema. In contrast, critical responses to the American horror genre at the turn of the millennium, what Steffen Hantke describes as the ‘pessimist’s view’, suggest that the genre was ‘at its worst’, reduced to commercially driven remakes, sequels, and pastiches, empty of meaning and/or progressive readings (2010, viii). Hantke’s book was published in 2010, three years before the first of The Purge films was released (2013) [followed by The Purge: Anarchy (2014), The Purge: Election Year (2016), and The First Purge (2018)], a franchise that offers a blistering critique of racism, Christian fundamentalism, and neoliberal patriarchal authority. This chapter will consider how this series of films manage to balance these perspectives—on the one hand, a carefully conceived and authored series capable of offering relevant and insightful social commentary, while on the other, continuing to function as a lucrative and popular franchise.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHorror Franchise Cinema
EditorsMark McKenna, William Proctor
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780429060830
ISBN (Print)9781032105871, 9780367183271
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2021

Publication series

NameRoutledge Advances in Film Studies

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