Movie Review: The Purge

The Purge (2013)
85 minutes
Directed by James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey


Grade: C-

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.


2 Responses to Movie Review: The Purge

  1. Heath says:

    The Purge really could have been awesome, but it just ran out of steam. I stated in my review ( that Henry was such a great villain, but he was criminally underutilized. He represents the “Purge Purist”. The people that have never known different; the ones that welcome the Purge with open arms. I was hoping for a film like The Strangers, but it just lumbered along until the disappointing end.

  2. 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.

    More about the movie you can also find it here

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