Exclusive Interview with 'The Purge: Election Year' Director James DeMonaco
This week "The Purge: Election year" will be released on DVD after an outstanding Box Office. The movie coincidentally is set in an election year and tells the story of former police sergeant Barnes who must protect Senator Charlie Roan, a Presidential candidate targeted for death on Purge night due to her vow to eliminate the Purge.
Latin Post had the opportunity to interview director James DeMonaco and talk to him about the evolution of the series, politics and the sociopolitical themes the movie portrays.
Latin Post: When you wrote the script to this film were you conscious that this was an election year?
James DeMonaco: No I didn't although I wish I could say yes. I wrote the film right after the last movie movie at the end of 2014. So I didn't even process that. I always wanted to tell a political conspiracy thriller for the third one. Naturally it was going to be a senator who was running for president and yeah back then Trump wasn't even on board. My producer always says I was telling the future because I had no idea.
LP: It's interesting because it does say alot about what is going on right now. So what does the Purge represent to you and what does it say about the human condition?
JDM: The film was always conceived to be a metaphor for America's relationship with guns and violence. I always thought it was very different from the rest of the world and the world I had seen through my eyes. The idea was to always make some kind of a metaphor for our gun control laws or lack thereof. And secondary to that was the treatment of class and race. The original idea came right after Katrina and the lack of response to Katrina. There was something I grew up learning about which was smuggler cinema which is back in the 50s. All of the studios wanted westerns and a lot of directors were sick of westerns. John Ford did not want to make another western. So what they would do was try to smuggle these socio political ideas into these genre movie. And my producer and I thought this would be a good idea. We love genre. I grew up watching John Carpenter and we said let's smuggle some ideas that can give another layer to a genre or a b movie. Put a mural to American violence, class and guns. I think some people see it. We previewed it many times and some people saw exactly what we wanted to say and others don't see it all. Some people see it as these tales of violence.
LP: What makes you want to come back to the franchise and do you see yourself exploring this world again?
JDM: I think there is a lot to explore but I don't think I'll be the director of those explorations. I might write them but not direct them. It's a much longer process and I think there are other things I want to tell. But as a writer I think I could see myself doing that. Guns and Class and Race are still part of our society so if we could continue finding new ways to deal with that I think that's kind of cool.
LP: So what was different about this film from the previous two films?
JDM: I think this one was more blatantly moralistic. I think the idea of this third one was going to be anti-purge. To be honest it was about people stopping the purge. It was about people openly against the purge. So the senator wants to stop it and to see a community create such a thing as the safe zone, these anti-purge zones is something interesting. It's the whole idea of violent revolution versus peaceful demonstration. The idea was to show opposing forces against the Purge.
LP: What do you find surprising of making a Horror film infused into a thriller?
JDM: I think it's a mix. It started more horror with the first one but I think it happened quite quickly with the second one. It became more action horror and that is more my world. I grew up with John Carpenter and George Miller. I like horror but I'm not a full horror guy. But I like action and thriller and it was nice to make a blend. I think that makes it unique and makes it a little different.
LP: Did it surprise you that the genre moved towards this style? The first is so much more of a horror film and the second one is more of an action thriller. This is a mix of both.
JDM: I always intended the first one to be more action packed. I think I'm more naturally inclined to go towards action than I am horror. What I realized quickly is that shooting action is quite expensive and takes a lot of time. So the default is to do a horror film. It's much cheaper to do creeps and scares and to do action. So we were in this house, we had eighteen days and we defaulted back to it. And personally I think it's the least successful of the three films because maybe I wasn't in my comfort zone. I was very happy with where it went to because it was more in line with my sensibilities.
LP: After making these three films what have you learned and how have you grown as a director?
JDM: I made one film before this with Ethan Hawke and was very different. The big thing I learned here is the separation between the writer and the director. You write something and you put it up on the page and to make it a practicality is a great leap. I think being a writer for so many years was a great learning curve that I went through. There is a big practicality to directing that does not exist for a writer. A writer can dream and go bananas versus the guy who actually has to make it happen. I learned how to do that and I hope I can use it for the future.