The Purge franchise started out with a simple idea: what if all crime, including murder, was made legal for 12-hours once a year? This deceptively simple “what if” scenario has since spawned three distinctive films, with each title vastly surpassing its own paltry budget. The original Purge was made for $3 million and went on to accrue $89.3 million at the North American box office. Its sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, upped the budget to $11 million, but ended up making $111.9 million. The latest entry in this sadistic series, The Purge: Election Year, has since set the franchise milestone with $118.1 million. Boring stats they may be, but the numbers don’t lie: audiences want more of their favourite twisted alternate reality, and series creator James DeMonaco is going to give it to them.
Reports of a Purge television adaptation has set fans in a frenzy, as DeMonaco teases a quasi-anthological approach to broaden the appeal to a new audience, but why stop there? To this day The Purge remains synonymous with the horror and action genres, but its hyper-reality context hints at more untapped potential. Contemporary topics like race equality, with the recent police shootings in America, questions of social class brought on by Donald Trump’s Presidency campaign, and the diminishing state of the standard family model are all difficult subjects that are ripe for discussion and exploration.
It could be argued that The Purge: Election Year provides an allegory for the consequences of a Trump America, but the film’s overwhelming focus on intense action sequences undermines this notion. A television show – with its longer running time – can extrapolate the important issues noted above without conforming to the popcorn thrills of the big screen. A television show can enlarge the World of The Purge, a world seemingly without limitations or end. A constant renewal of completely fresh characters with their own ideology and motivations towards opposing/supporting The Purge is a rare gift many producers don’t have the luxury of. One episode may revolve around the vindictive nature of the Purgee’s, while others may focus on different age groups and the varying generational divide in a country’s desperate attempt to retain its position in the world. The possibilities are endless.
The Purge franchise needn’t limit itself to television in order to tell its story; other formats like videogames, radio, and books can accommodate for the series’ multiple subjects. The film’s exponential growth since 2013 is certainly impressive, but it’s still a relatively young and fresh series. The opportunity to spread across different formats adds a significant layer of diversification to its repertoire, whilst also acting as a great way to encourage original fans of the franchise to seek out the different books/radio plays/videogames if they want to continue their favourite stories.
The franchise might want to take notes from the Marvel Universe and its approach towards multi-format and intertwining storylines. Marvel’s brand recognition has sky-rocketed since The Avengers movie combined Earth’s mightiest heroes, and while The Purge certainly doesn’t thrive on the same level of heroism you might expect in a Captain America film, it can still capitalise on the same serialised character journeys that the protagonist, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), experienced. These different formats can combine to create a compelling journey for the prey/predators of the dreaded Purge.
Imagine a videogame whereby the player is given the choice to survive the Purge, or actively participate in it. The Purge is the very epitome of difficult decision-making, and it complies with the growing trend of videogames that empower the player with their own unique choices, each with their own set of consequences. Imagine a book that tackles the delicate subject of the formation of the Purge night and its historical context. Imagine a radio play that sets out to portray the cold first-person perspective of a supporter of the Purge; all perspectives the films have failed to effectively recognise.
These are just a couple of ideas milked from grand premise of the Purge property. With so many economical issues plaguing society everyday, maybe one day The Purge can provide a compelling social commentary free from the reigns of horror and action conventions. Rest assured, the television series will be a key indicator as to where the franchise wants to go next.