In an age over-saturated with slick American teen drama series with a supernatural theme – many still characterised by the enduring influence of BUFFY and all of them hoping to be as long running as SUPERNATURAL – HEARTLESS is a distinctively Danish take on the form. Played commendably straight and without the smart-arse, self-aware humour that tends to dominate its U.S. equivalents, it’s an absorbing, if sometimes ponderous, eight-episode serial that has scope for further seasons.
In the early going of episode one, we witness photogenic teen twins Sofie (Julie Zangenberg) and Sebastian (Sebastian Jessen) luring and feeding in an almost vampiric fashion from an unfortunate young man in a nightclub who, as a result of their necessary act, promptly bursts into flames. The siblings have to feed on the life force of other people in order to survive and fatal consequences result if their feeding reaches a certain level. Sebastian, the more sensitive of the duo, wrestles with his own conscience of their activities, and together the twins set out to find out who and what they really are. They revisit the orphanage from which they originally ran away as infants, and discover that their mother attended an ultra-strict, rural boarding school. Joining as second year students, they learn about the dark history of the school itself – with the sadistic modern hierarchy carrying on old traditions of persecution and torture - and its inextricable links to their own bloodline.
Shot in muted tones and colours with the central school permanently enshrouded by mist, HEARTLESS is an atmospheric series built around a premise that inevitably echoes significant earlier American genre works. Sebastian (who tortuously reins in his need to feed wherever possible) gets the come-on from various girls at the school but his perfectly normal lustiness blurs with the unavoidable needs of his monstrous self when aroused, a la CAT PEOPLE. (The notion of a tortured, handsome male lead unable to fulfil romantic relationships due to the threat he poses, is of course, a throwback to BUFFY and ANGEL). The concept of family members with a desperate compulsion to feed on humans and a peculiarly incestuous relationship with each other has echoes of Stephen King’s far sillier SLEEPWALKERS. There are also CARRIE-inspired sub-plots involving the telekinetic powers of key secondary characters.
It could very easily be reincarnated as a generic, slick U.S. series, but the execution here is very Scandinavian. The tone is sombre and understated, with an underlying erotic charge and a real effort to minimise FX and melodrama in favour of a realistic approach to the potentially outlandish material. The backstory, including flashbacks to 17th century witch-hunts linked to the school principal’s three daughters, is effectively integrated into the contemporary narrative, and the performances are strong all round: the two leads are striking. For those that crave such things, there are occasional intrusions of predictably bad CGI fire and some fleeting, gratuitous shower-room nudity, but HEARTLESS has a beguiling style of its own, even when retreading age-old plot threads like the old “Only love can break the curse…” chestnut that we have seen in sundry earlier genre projects.
BLU-RAy REVIEW – THE purge: Election year – ***
Directed by James DeMonaco, Starring Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, David Aaron Baker, Kyle Secor, Ethan Phillips, Raymond J. Barry, Kimberly Howe.
Released by Universal Home Entertainment. on Blu-ray and DVD 26th December, 2016,1 hour 49 minutes, Cert 15.
Presidential candidate Charlie Rowan, Elizabeth Mitchell has pledged to bring Purge Night to an end having been on the receiving end of a Purge Night incident. Public opinion seems to be behind her but the powers that be lead by Minister Edwidge Owens, Kyle Secor, and driven by the elite's self-interest, decide that they need to stop her and formulate a plan to kidnap and kill her on Purge Night.
The class warfare hinted from Anarchy is continued and amplified with the Purge portrayed as a means of keeping the population down and culling the poor and unemployed who are almost exclusively the targeted by the state-sanctioned chaos.
James DeMonaco who wrote and directed 2013’s THE PURGE and THE PURGE: ANARCHY that followed the year after is in charge of writing and directing duties again and he walks a tight rope with THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR between pure exploitation and something a little bit more weighty.
All three films are frankly better than they should be and THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR is the best, and although it’s the longest so far, at 109 minutes, it’s pace and excitement are well maintained. With real feeling characters to care about and that you want to see survive, Grillo reprising his role and Mitchell as the idealistic politician standouts in the acting department, this is a good conclusion to the trilogy.
Extras - Deleted scenes, Inside The Purge and Character Spotlight.