King Up High

JJ Wayne GrahamArticles, King Up HighLeave a Comment

Although it’s not a great franchise, the concept at the impetus of The Purge films is a terrific plot device that could explore the deepest, darkest, recesses of the human psychosis without having to wow audiences with bang and booms of “quote” a blockbuster movie.For me, it’s the stories of the people trapped inside this world that are intriguing and horrific.

The Purge Series

A few coworkers and I were talking about how effed up the tales within this insane world of The Purge could be and how the series could easily progress into a Tales from the Crypt or better yet a Saw-like franchise. Each movie would exist as its own film, but continue to exploit the concept of The Purge in every iteration.

One a year — on the same day — the audience enters a scenario where someone has to live out the danger that is this horrible day. We as the voyeurs of cinema are the only ones privy to the ghastly happenings to either the protagonist or antagonist. Similar to the first movie with the family trapped inside their home with would-be killers trying to enter, we experience their horrific ordeal as they attempt at all means to survive.

Now, this proved not to be a popular plot device for many critics of the first Purge film, and rightly so; the advertising was more geared towards a frantic Panic Room than a slow cooker confined space film.  This disenchantment prompted the studio to do a sequel The Purge: Anarchy, in which they changed things up a bit to better appease the masses.

Even I was like, cool, they took us outside into the night of The Purge. However, it just didn’t feel right. Oh wait, I was thinking of the third movie, Purge: Election Year; yeah, it was too Hollywood with far too much of an investment into making this one city unstable for human-kind. They drove the home, and we got it: stay indoor or go outside and get dead.

However, they did give us a character with a Purge motive in Anarchy who epitomizes the insanity behind revenge and redemption. Anarchy was good until this same guy discovered he wasn’t a monster and more a hero. I don’t necessarily believe that many Purgers would find that moral high ground when that ground is hell deep in fire and brimstone, and revenge is just so bittersweet.

Psychotic Nature of The Purge

The genius of this idea [Purge Day] is the psychotic nature of its premise. One day where a person can exercise his or her deepest darkest desires without repercussions. Every year the studio could churn out a film that is different from the year before based on one person’s experience during purge night.

Last House on The Left is a good example of the kind of films the Purge series should emulate. The original and the remake are two of the most hard-to-watch films I have the displeasure of enjoying. Take a movie like that and place it into this world of The Purge and boom! there’s a bankable franchise. Saw did in the nineties so why not commit to telling effed up stories we don’t want to see but are intrigued to watch. Audiences love consistency and will definitely place their money in the donation plate each year there is an offering.

The Last House on The Left (2009) – After kidnapping and brutally assaulting two young women, a gang unknowingly finds refuge at a vacation home belonging to the parents of one of the victims: a mother and father who devise an increasingly gruesome series of revenge tactics. –IMDB

Purge Night As A Stage

King Up High is the story of a man who must travel from opposite ends of the city to a high-rise building during the most dangerous day of the year.

I wrote the first draft of this story as a first person narrative about a thrill seeker who would do anything for the feel of the rush. Dekker is cool and calm; his place within this Purge world is more about the excitement of the day and not the horrors of tomorrow. As a competitor, Dekker showcases his conformity on the stage of a television show, King Up High. The reality that Purge night is real and the almighty dollar never stops earning was a great concept to explore. Someone or some company would evidently find a way to make Purge Day a bankable entertainment commodity.

Birdsong, An Audio Drama

Just a few pages in I’d decided to make this into an audio drama and as the story of Dekker unfolded, different characters revealed themselves within this arc who now needed voices. Alysa, Mike, and Chris answered the creative call and pony’d up voice work for free.

I was to voice Dekker, the main lead. Why? Because I’m always available and didn’t want to bother anyone else. After performing a scene, and then performing that same scene ten more times, I wished I would have swallowed my pride and recruited another creative, like, my boy Matty P, coworker, actor, director, friend.

Can’t say I regret going through the process, though. The experience definitely taught me what to expect the next time I record one of these audio plays. I also gained more perspective on what to expect from anyone who volunteers to act in one of these productions. I remember Alysa texting me a question about this scene towards the end of Bird Song and I was very confused on how to direct her.

“Um, just scream,” is what I wanted to tell her but she was trying to understand the character in the moment and the precariousness of her situation. Not any scream would do. Alysa wanted to sell it at the highest value and came back with various versions of the damsel in distress for me to choose from.


Fleeting and Doe-Eyed Girl

I got a bit ahead of myself and started thinking of ways I could use the story for a video project and tell a bit of Riley’s back story using different mediums. In truth, I was captivated by Riley’s love story; it was something that was added as an afterthought but needed addressing because it would serve as Dekker’s motivation to accomplish the difficult task of surviving Purge Night.

Aside from the audio program, I filmed Fleeting and wrote Doe-Eyed Girl. Fleeting, a video short, was more a product of distraction than a purposeful creation. The idea was to convey some of the emotions Dekker experienced the day leading into the night of the purge. The nightmares and the memories all play an integral part in his motivation to compete in King Up High and it sets the stage for actions that preclude the moment within Bird Song.

The very first iteration was a static camera vlog of Dekker attempting to give you and introspective look into his life. This video was long and terse with dialog from the script– total snooze fest that was better left for the audio version.

As prefaced early, I am easily distracted. So, in an effort to really assert my claim that there is not just one way to tell a tale, I wrote a short story to supplement an idea introduced in Fleeting. A love story: Doe-Eyed Girl fits perfectly into the canon that is The King Up High which started as just a short story and evolved into an audio drama. This story introduces you to the main reason why Dekker chooses to compete in a game that has killed many and rewards only one.

The idea that you don’t have to tell a story one way has always been something that encourages me to continue writing. With the emergence of New Media and technology, a creative person doesn’t have to only rely on using one method to tell a story; he or she can tell their story in any imaginative way they choose to express themselves.

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