Review – The Purge

The Purge Poster

What if you could, literally, get away with murder?  And rape, and theft, and vandalism, and whatever else you feel like?  In the year 2022 that will all be legal.  Actually, given the fact that it’s mentioned that twelve or so year old boy is too young to remember life before “The Purge,” this new law should be coming into affect any day now.

The US has been revitalized by a group only referred to as “The New Founding Fathers of America.”  As part of this revival of the country, “The Purge” has been introduced.  Once a year, for twelve hours, crime of nearly any sort is legal.  There are a few restrictions with weapons of a certain magnitude not allowed and certain levels of government officials exempt from being touched, but for the most part, you can get away with anything – though there’s a good chance you’ll get killed in the process.

Some people, like our family of the hour, the Sandins, are rich enough to invest in heavy security systems and prefer to hunker down for the night until it’s all over.  James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) happens to sell such systems, becoming quite wealthy in just a few years.  He and his wife Mary (Lena Headey), along with their two children Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder) are getting ready for what should be another uneventful Purge for their household.  This year, though, things don’t quite go according to plan and they spend the night fighting for their lives.

From the producers of such films as Paranormal Activity , and Sinister, the horror film aesthetics are immediately present.  Unsettling Stepford Wives -esque neighbors, a creepy child with a disturbing robot doll, people getting startled for no good reason, an overly soothing disembodied voice on the television.  Even before anything actually happens in the plot, the film does its best to prime your adrenaline and set the mood.  Of course, this comes off as more comical than anything else, as is often the case.

Like a lot of horror films, The Purge doesn’t take much time in getting to the good stuff.  We take a few minutes to set up the scenario, find out who the characters are, and get a taste for what’s to come in the opening credits.  Before you know it, the witching hour has struck, the house goes into lockdown, and The Purge has begun.

There is very little that happens that you won’t see coming.  The Purge takes a somewhat fascinating hypothetical social experiment and boils it down to a night where everything goes wrong and a lot of people get killed in brutal fashion.  The mood stays just south of camp and what could be a disturbingly real night of terror has just a bit of cheese to it.  I’m not quite sure if the flavor of tongue in cheek is actually intended, but it’s definitely there.  There are some pretty graphic scenes of violence, but most of it is less intense than what you might imagine, given the premise.

None of the leads are that memorable, other than the main villain of the night, played by Rhys Wakefield.  He’s comical, creepy, and disturbing, embodying a strange mixture of the spirit of the late Heath Ledger, Cillian Murphy, and Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.  If you remember one thing about this movie, it will likely be his performance.

This is not a great film, by any means, but I still had fun with it.  This is the type of movie that’s best watched with a crowd as they gasp at the appropriate moments, and laugh at the inappropriate ones.  The biggest crime this movie commits is not taking time to examine what could be an interesting premise.  It exists more as a plot device to set up the movie rather than something that gets examined on screen.  There’s a brief mention about whether The Purge is right and how some people think it’s all about money and population control.  I would love to see a sequel focus more on those aspects.  And you can be sure there will be a sequel.  This has franchise written all over it – The two teens stuck out during The Purge because their car broke down, the gang of street thugs trying to get rich robbing as many banks as they can, the politicians trying to off each other during the night.  There are almost unlimited stories here and hopefully some of them are a little more interesting than this one.

My Rating:  Three out of Five Hats

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Mrs. Hamster Says:

“It leaves you wondering why…  Until the end when you’re still wondering.  I haven’t heard an audience laugh so much at a thriller since Snakes on a Plane.  If you want a good home invasion thriller, watch Hostage.”

Trailer:

The Purge breaks into 2,536 theaters June 7