‘The Purge: Anarchy’ Tests Out New Marketing Strategy: Pretend-Murder

By  · Published on June 3rd, 2014

Universal Pictures

Back when the original The Last House on the Left was in theaters, the ads shared a common theme: “To avoid fainting, keep repeating, ‘It’s only a movie… it’s only a movie… it’s only a movie…’”

Sound advice. Because a movie can’t actually kill you, unless it’s kind of scary and you have heart problems, or unless it’s kind of Avatar and you’d rather end it all than live in a world where you can’t kiss your ten-foot-tall cat-girlfriend on the mouth. But what if it wasn’t just a movie? What if there was a way to take something from the silver screen and make it something you can actually live?

That’s the idea behind The Purge: Breakout. Because you see, there was a The Purge movie last year. And there will be a The Purge movie this year: The Purge: Anarchy (in theaters July 18th!). But there are people for whom waiting an entire year for a sequel to their new favorite anarcho-horror slasher film is unacceptable; and it’s those people who will probably be taking part in this new The Purge-themed interactive experience.

Here’s how it works: you pay to be pretend-kidnapped by some nutbag who is taking full advantage of the current “One Night Only – Nothing is Illegal!” plan that the (fictional) Purge offers. You and five friends (if you have five friends willing to pay to do this, otherwise it’ll be five strangers) must solve puzzles and decipher clues to escape from a hellhole constructed from four semi trailers. All the while, you’ll be harangued by chained-up women in gory makeup, and stalked by a big beefy man who looks more interested in tending to his many BBQ restaurant chains than he does in butchering innocent civilians.

If you can solve the puzzles in time, you win! If you can’t, you’ll be “purged,” and fake-killed in the most interactive way imaginable, whatever that might be. If you’re lucky, maybe the killer will offer you a plate of brisket as you leave.

It sounds a little on the dopey side (and it looks a lot on the dopey side, once you see it in action, which you can via the brand new trailer below). But at least it’s a breath of fresh air when it comes to getting the word out about a summer movie.

There will always be trailers and TV spots and posters. Comes with the territory. And on The Purge: Breakout’s side of things, big movies will continue to get theme park rides that aren’t quite as relevant to the actual movie as they should be.

But The Purge: Breakout, at least, is shaking things up a bit. Normally, movie-based theme park rides don’t come out before the actual movie – they come out long after that movie has stopped being relevant. Which is why Lethal Weapon – The Ride debuted in 1995, and why the Avatar theme park Pandora: The Land of Avatar will debut a mere eight years after Avatar was released.

This is the way of all things. Everyone who flocked to the first Saw movie (and grudgingly accepted the next six) didn’t want a regular roller coaster with a fresh coat of Saw paint. And they didn’t want a Saw-themed haunted house where you could walk past an assortment of deathtraps. And no one ever wanted a theme park to hold a competition for the foulest smelling urine in all of Britain, and then douse said haunted house in a bucket of sour asparagus piss. But they did, for reasons no sane person could ever truly comprehend.

People didn’t like the Saw franchise because its characters walked around in wet pants. They liked the franchise for its cool deathtraps, yet none of these rides ever offered up a scary-looking (yet totally safe) bear trap helmet that people could pretend to get out of. Remember when Comic-Con attendees got to experience a simulated Godzilla attack? Stuff like that.

The Purge: Breakout doesn’t allow people to kill and defile without punishment in its cozy four-semi living space. But at least it offers an interaction with a guy who does. Plus, it’s an early adopter of the escape game fad, which is mostly limited to Asia right now and not exactly huge here in the US. So it’s ahead of the curve in that regard.

So here’s to The Purge: Breakout setting a trend for fun, interactive movie marketing. And also to no one taking this ride too seriously and accidentally harming the big dude with the plate of smoked turkey wings.