A Review: The Purge – Small Film in a Big Story.

June 14, 2013 6:19 pm

In the Purge it is the year 2022 and crime is at an all time low in America. Unemployment is at 1% and everyone seems content and happy with their lives. This is because for three-hundred and sixty-four days and twelve hours of the year, everyone is all ‘howdy neighbor’ and ‘how do you do’? But for the other twelve hours of the year, America goes into a frenzy as anything you can do is legal – including murder. And oh my, there is a LOT of murder.

We are introduced to the affluent Sardin family who  are getting ready for this year’s purge. James Sardin, played by Ethan Hawke, has made a ton of cash selling high-end security systems to the wealthy and in turn, is now wealthy himself. The Sardin family became so wealthy that their fellow rich neighbours resent them for having the biggest house on the street which was, in their minds, ‘paid for by the neighbourhood’. The action begins when the Sardin family lock their home down to hide away for the night and a homeless man comes seeking shelter from a gang of ‘hunters’. Charlie, the young and naive son of the Sardin family lets him in. The hunters find out and offer an ultimatum: release the homeless man or they’ll break in and kill them all. What happens next is fairly obvious.

That is ‘The Purge’ summarised.

A concept like this raises a lot of questions that the film ultimately never answers. Reasons as to how the concept came about and how it actually works to make society safer are never addressed. But hey, this is a horror film with an eighty-five minute running time – you’re not supposed to ask questions.

In a way, you can never really criticize the film for that. It is what it is, a home invasion story with a provocative backdrop. That’s what it sets out to do, and it does just that. And in that respect, The Purge’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. Director James DeMonaco managed to keep the film focused by being a home invasion film and it never pretends to be anything else. It does this very effectively as well, at least for the last half an hour of the film, which has more suspenseful and tense moments than any other Horror film you’ll watch this year – albeit this is short lived. Though the first hour is intriguing as well with Dialogue and background noise such as radio broadcasts and television shows are peppered with little social commentaries where DeMonaco expresses his sentiments on the financial crisis that exists today and how the purge solved it all. How? Never mind. You’re not supposed to ask questions, remember?

It’s odd though, because both halves of the film work in a way – on their own merits. But it almost felt like DeMonaco took two parts from two different films and cut them together. It felt this way because what starts of as something quite ambitious and with a lot to say ends as a run of the mill Horror. In the end, it just came across as if DeMonaco couldn’t figure out how to articulate his sentiments any further, so he just gave in and went down the route of gun play and axe swinging. The Purge had ambition to be something huge, but it gave up with an almighty ‘meh’ and slipped into convention.

However, The Purge was a good watch overall. Each half of the film had its moments but as a narrative, it just felt like a bit of a confusing mess. It’s like the pizza and ice cream analogy. Both are great, but not when you put them together. The twist at the end is quite a nice surprise, and whilst not giving too much away, the family are given a choice to act violently or not and this choice ties into the ending – which has been vehemently panned. But maybe this all ties into DeMonaco’s ultimate point that we want to see the bad guys get their comeuppance in the worst ways possible and we, as a society, are fundamentally bloodthirsty. Just like those who take part in The Purge.


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