Movie Review: ‘The Purge’

In Theaters

“The Purge,” written and directed by James DeMonaco, 85 minutes, rated R.

In the year 2022, the United States is a nation reborn, where poverty and unemployment rates have taken a drastic dip, and crime is at an all-time low. The country owes all of this prosperity to The Purge, one night of the year when all crime – namely murder – is not only legal, but is a right for all American citizens.

So begins James DeMonaco’s “The Purge,” a horror-inspired home invasion film that is derivative, more often than not, yet manages to maintain its dignity through all that blood and violence with an unambiguous political statement.

Once establishing its out-there premise of a government-sponsored night of mass murder on U.S. soil, the film introduces James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), a wealthy salesman for a home security company who has made a fortune off of other well-off individuals looking to create a sanctuary for the annual Purge. James and his family (Lena Heady, Max Burkholder and Adelaid Kane) are safe for the night, because they can afford to be. Others, such as the homeless and poor, however, are not so lucky. These are the targets of the Purgers, and their deaths are the primary contribution to the country’s reduced poverty and unemployment rates.

When the clock strikes 7 p.m., the Sandins, as well as the rest of the gated neighborhood, lock down their houses with the latest home protection system. Things go wrong, however, when James’ sympathetic son Charlie (Burkholder) lets a wounded stranger into their home. Soon after, a group of affluent, privileged and educated masked Purgers show up on the Sandins’ doorstep looking for the “homeless filth,” so they can finish their Purge.

The creepy crew of eccentric preps leave the Sandins with a choice: Hand over their annual victim, who will undoubtedly suffer a prolonged and gruesome death, or the gang will enter the house and execute the entire family in the same manner.

There are a number of influences “The Purge” feeds off, ranging anywhere from “Assault on Precinct 13” (which DeMonaco remade in 2005) to “Last House on the Left,” and “Funny Games,” which is a much savvier piece of satire from the great Michael Haneke. As a horror movie, “The Purge” is pretty much sub-par. With spurts of high tension sprinkled throughout, the film serves up the same home invasion story that keeps re-emerging every so often in Hollywood. The only real twist here is that this time the intrusion and ensuing murder is legal.

But there’s more to “The Purge” than what is on the surface, or that can be highlighted in a 30-second TV spot. DeMonaco uses the tired-yet-popular premise as a platform to, hopefully, open up a dialogue about class warfare. Though it could have been explored more thoroughly, this unexpected element helps elevate the film well above similar outings such as 2008’s “The Strangers,” making it just bold enough to stand out from its subgenre.

Grade: B-

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2 Responses to Movie Review: ‘The Purge’

  1. John Smith says:

    That old awesome horror-movie standard, , gets mixed with a bit of old era class.but disappointed with final thriller.want more from director

  2. The Purge says:

    From the producers of Paranormal Activity (as is all horror films these days) The Purge tells the story of a near future were crime is at an all time low and unemployment stands at under 1% of the US population, to compensate for one night a year all crime (including murder) is legal for 12 hours allowing society some kind of release.

    The film revolves around the Sandin family who are confronted by a group of college students hunting a man on the night of the Purge who the family had allowed into their home after lockdown. The Purgers (lead by Rhys Wakefield) drastically try to break into the family’s home causing James (Ethan Hawke) and Mary (Lena Headey) to protect their children from the invaders in order to survive the night.

    The main problem with the film is the premise itself, whilst interesting is filled with flaws and holes that just make the whole idea ridiculous. Such as what happens to the serial killers and career criminals of this world? Do they just control their urges to kill or steal for the other 364 days until the next Purge, as well what if someone has a heart attack on the night of The Purge? Is it just a case of bad luck you chose the wrong night to need medical care?

    Despite the flaws of the premise, the film repeatedly ignores the possibilities of the premise, instead of exploring the ideas behind the Purge or the events that occur on the night of the Purge from different perspectives and situations. Instead the film settles for a typical home invasion story that although done well, is nothing we haven’t seen done in many other films. The Purge in the end seems to only be the premise of this film to stop the age old question of “Why don’t they just call the police?” in home invasion films.

    To the films credit it is quite subtle, there’s a running theme that the Purge is just an excuse for the upper classes to exterminate the poor, driven by all the attackers wearing prep school blazers and the person they are chasing wearing dog tags around his neck. The film also contains some strong performances, especially from Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Lord of War) and Lena Headey (Dredd, Game of Thrones) who carry the film throughout. The film also has a twist near the end which allows the audience to get inside the heads of the people during this night.

    That cant be said for the leader of the Purger’s played by Rhys Wakefield (Sanctum, Home and Away)whose performance is slightly cringe worthy, hes trying to be psychotic yet in control of the proceedings but it just comes across as a amateur dramatics’ version of The Joker. He just never seems like a really threat and just a creepy next door neighbour.

    The film also contains some bizarre and just plain weird set pieces, such as the families’ son who builds a spy camera on a chard baby doll on the top of a rhino tank from Warhammer 40,000. The thing looks like a demented contraption from Sid’s bedroom in Toy Story.

    Overall, The Purge is an OK home invasion film, there are moments of suspense and a couple of jump scares are effective. The wasted potential of the premise is the films main downfall which could have lead to a more effective and possible original film then what we got in the end.

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