Written and directed by James DeMonaco (Jack), The Purge has one of the most interesting premises I have seen so far this year. In 2022, the United States is an idyllic place to live with only 1% unemployment and barely any violence; that is until the day of “The Purge”. The Purge is an annual 12-hour time period that gives people free-reign to commit crimes (in this film, murder) without fear of legal action or emergency service intervention. The government believes this event is good for society since it allows Americans to “purge” their demons by releasing the rage/violence that has built up over the other 364 days of the year. Are you mad at a coworker? Have no fear! You only need to wait for the night of The Purge in order to exact your revenge.
Unfortunately, The Purge loses most of its points for originality when it devolves into a typical home invasion story, complete with scary music, darkness, and horrible decision-making from the characters. Hint: never go upstairs when you’re being chased and never split up and explore the house by yourself. While I didn’t completely dislike the movie, I was incredibly disappointed that the filmmakers left so much potential for greatness on the table. Not to mention, as home invasion stories go, The Purge does not come close to the creepiness of The Strangers, one of my favorite horror films.
The film opens on March 21, 2022, the day of The Purge. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) has just returned home from a long day on the job. James sells top-of-the-line home security systems and is excited to tell his wife (Lena Headey) and children that his division sold the most systems that year. Before they have time to celebrate, however, the family must begin locking down the house’s high-tech security system. They have no interest in “purging”; they just want to ride out the night together watching everything unfold on TV.
However, things don’t go according to plan after a stranger maneuvers his way into the Sandin’s highly secure house. Unfortunately for the Sandins, this stranger makes the family a target. We quickly discover he was being hunted by a resourceful group of Purgers who will kill the Sandins unless they hand over the stranger. How far will the Sandins go to protect themselves while also protecting their morality?
The Purge has the potential for some really interesting (and extremely relevant) social commentary. After all, during The Purge, the rich are the only people that can afford sufficient protection (through security systems, weapons, etc…), leaving the dregs of society as easy targets. I think we can now understand why there is low unemployment. While certain dialogue and situations briefly touch on this matter of economic disparity, the filmmakers decide to focus primarily on scare tactics (which weren’t even that scary). The premise made me believe the film would be so much more than the average horror movie, so I am frustrated that it did not live up to my expectations.
Bottom line: The Purge is more disappointing than it is a great horror flick. It was fine as a home invasion thriller, but it could have been so much more than that. Hopefully this will be one of those movies that is “re-imagined” in a few years with better second and third acts.
My Review: C