** (out of 5)
June 7, 2013
Ethan Hawke as JAMES SANDIN
Lena Headey as MARY SANDIN
Max Burkholder as CHARLIE SANDIN
Adelaide Kane as ZOEY SANDIN
Edwin Hodge as BLOODY STRANGER
Rhys Wakefield as POLITE STRANGER
Directed by: James DeMonaco
BY KEVIN CARR
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I’m a fan of both speculative fiction and horror movies, and I also enjoy it when a movie branches over multiple genres. However, that branching can be tricky, and if it’s not done right, you’re left with a sour note when those worlds do collide.
“The Purge” can be best described as a speculative thriller because it has the not-to-distant future political angle to it, but the bulk of it is a thriller about a home invasion. The problem with this movie is while the premise is intriguing, it’s not executed very well, leaving us with a film that just isn’t very good.
The story takes place in 2022, after an upheaval in the American government has led to the country having an annual Purge. This is an event each year during which no crime goes punished for 12 hours. The purpose behind the Purge is to give people a small window during which they can let their demons run wild. Some speculate that this is a way to get rid of the poor and homeless, bringing down the burden on society.
The film follows one family whose father has made a lot of money selling security systems for the inevitable Purge. However, when they lock down their home during the night, the son lets in a stranger in distress, and the people trying to kill him then target the family. What follows is a night of terror and home invasion, reminiscent of the better film “The Strangers” from several years ago.
The biggest hurdle “The Purge” has is it’s setting. Regardless of political upheaval or the misguided thoughts of a way to better the country, there would not be such support for this kind of thing. Even the daughter in the family – who is about 16 in the film, inexplicably wearing a schoolgirl outfit you’d likely see in a strip club – should be old enough to remember the world before the Purge. The acceptance people have for this event doesn’t quite wash, nor do the zealously religious attitudes of the people who participate in the Purge.
Unlike “The Hunger Games,” which features a similarly violent “what if” scenario for a future society, “The Purge” takes place less than a decade in the future. “The Hunger Games” takes place in the distant future, generations away, with many of the average citizens unhappy with the event and the folks in power driving its continuation.
There are too many logic holes in the set up of the film that it distracted me from the story itself. For example, why does the family almost lose track of time and lock down their home at five minutes until 7pm, when the Purge commences? If it were me, I’d have that shit locked down since lunchtime, or before. People gain access to a supposedly secure house, which doesn’t even have a fortified panic room or anything, which might be believable for just any slob but not for a guy who installs security systems. Additionally, while the family has an arsenal of weapons, they end up sharing one handgun to defend themselves rather than everyone having enough weaponry for the night to hold off a small militia.
Then there’s the political message, which is delivered with the subtlety of a gorilla wielding a sledgehammer. The group of Purgers who are attacking the house are seeking a homeless man, not a criminal, and they announce this multiple times. The family lives in a wealthy neighborhood, and they make a point to say no one ever comes there during the Purge, which is ludicrous. People might not be able to get in the houses, but I find it hard to believe that a night of consequence-free crime wouldn’t bring at least one or two people to the gated communities to spray paint a couple Mercedes or set a few lawns on fire.
There are some moments of decent scares, and the home invasion element works to a degree, but that’s not enough to carry the film to a success. From the very basis of the film, there’s an interesting “what if” scenario that makes for good conversation and speculation by the audience. However, the execution borderlines on silly, with the movie thinking it’s a lot smarter than it really is.