The Purge (2013)
Directed by James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey
In the year 2022, the United States of America is thriving. Crime is at an all-time low, unemployment is at a spectacular 1% and therefore the economy is booming. The reason is because of the annual purge, where for 12 hours all crime is legal and all authorities are not on patrol. Okay, not exactly realistic and the film doesn’t even try to convince you, but this is certainly a great set-up to a horror film.
But it all unravels quickly. Ethan Hawke plays James Sandin, father of two alongside Mary (Headey). He’s a security-system salesman who is about to get a big bonus. His daughter Zoey is a rebellious teenager who loves her older boyfriend and his son Charlie is a quirky kid who simply doesn’t understand the purge at all. At 7 p.m. the purge begins and the family goes on lockdown where steel walls cover every door and window in the house. All they have to do is wait. James suggests they watch a movie to pass the time, but everyone is preoccupied.
Everything goes south when Charlie decides to help out a homeless man who is running for his life. But minutes later, a group of “purgers” appear in front of the Sandin house and gives them an ultimatum to return the homeless man for them to kill, or else they will break in. Led by the charismatic Rhys Wakefield, the rest of the purgers wear smiling masks and giggle while swinging knives and pointing their guns.
Unfortunately, the movie is all about its set-up and contains little satisfaction during its climax and conclusion. At a brief 85 minutes, somehow The Purge feels long. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen this home-invasion film before. Or maybe because there is just so much potential but in the end the film lacks any kind of substance. There are moments when there is brief commentary on how the purge not only allows Americans to unleash their rage, but really to off the lower-class and therefore allowing the society to rid of the people who were blamed for unemployment and crime. But in the end, all we see is a violent film about a family trying to survive a group of invaders.
James DeMonaco loses its grip halfway into the film and commits to a twist that is neither surprising nor thrilling. At the end, you’re not nearly as exhausted as the characters in the movie are. Instead, you’re shaking your head at the opportunity missed at a truly engaging, high-scale thriller tackling the gap of our social classes and the nation’s need for violence. Either that or just at the fact that if Charlie never disarmed the security system, we could’ve watched the Sandins enjoying a Disney movie or two.