TNB Night Owl–Punishment Park

Maasdam Swiss cheese. Photo by Arz.

A lot has been said in the past few weeks about Universal’s film THE HUNT. Long story short–it’s one of a long line of “humans hunting humans” movies with the twist being that liberals are the ones who get to shoot the conservatives. Between two failed test screenings where audiences expressed discomfort with the politics, two major mass shootings close to the release date, and angry tweets from the president, Universal decided to cancel the theatrical release. Instead of seeing it on the big screen in September, audiences will most likely have to wait a few months for a video release.

In light of the cancellation, if you’re jonesing for a “Humans Hunt Humans” flick, there are some great options.

SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS (2001) is by far my favorite. Not only does it do justice to the genre, it also predicts the rise in our voyeuristic obsession with reality TV. THE 10TH VICTIM (1965) is also a fun watch. You have Ursula Andress hunting Marcello Mastroianni in the midst of 60s European Mod stylings. What it lack in substance it makes up for style in glorious ways.

Unfortunately, neither is available to stream for free. If you get a chance, they’re worth the watch.

PUNISHMENT PARK (1971) is one I have a soft spot for. Made by British director Peter Watkins using a handful of actors and filling the rest of the cast with non-professional locals, the movie takes place in an ambiguous future. In this future, the McCarran Act of 1950 is now being used to preemptively arrest those the state expects to subvert government will in the future. Because of this, California prisons are overcrowded to the point of overflowing. Newly convicted “criminals” are given the choice to serve their full sentence or serve four days in Punishment Park. If they make it to the end, they’ve earned their freedom.

What makes PUNISHMENT PARK so unusual is the improvised style. This movie predates THE BLAIR WITCH project by decades, but has got to be an influence in its creation. Conservatives were recruited to play onscreen conservatives, liberals were recruited to play liberals. Both were given a loose script and minimal direction. This led to some rather intense moments where the cast wasn’t sure if what was going on was supposed to be part of the movie or not. While it has technical issues like overlapping dialogue that gets hard to understand, this cinema verite style gives the viewer less distance from the movie and pulls you into its world.

Here is PUNISHMENT PARK in its full glory:

Question of the night–which decade had the best style?

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