The Purge – 3 out of 5
The Purge is one of those movies where I absolutely LOVE the concept and that fact alone is enough for me to find some enjoyment with the film. However, the actual execution…
|Ethan Hawke looking shocked and mildly frightened...|
America has become a wasteland of crime and filth and some new Founding Fathers have declared that, in order to alleviate the problem, the citizens of this new ‘Murica will be allowed a single 12-hour period once a year to sow their wild oats…their wild, kill-happy oats. This period of time is called The Purge and it has cleansed the country of crime, overpopulation and unemployment. During the year 2020, a security salesman named James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is living large supplying the rich members of his community with security systems that keep them safe during this time of the year. The annual time of free rape, murder, vandalism and jay walking (that shit runs RAMPANT during that time) is upon them but James isn’t worried because he has the best security money can buy to protect his wife Mary (Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey), his son Charlie (Max Burkholder) and his daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane). However, as the orgy of death and violence commences outside, a bloodied homeless man escaping his fate from a violent group—who is credited as Bloody Stranger rather than something more sympathetic like homeless victim or actually given a name; oh and he’s played by Edwin Hodge—anyway, he calls out for help but the privileged members of the community ignore his calls or, possibly, are planning to kill him themselves. Feeling guilty, Charlie deactivates the security system and allows him sanctuary into his home. However, this act of charity during a time where debauchery and blood lust reign supreme incites the ire of the group who were chasing the man. Lead by a charismatic, and frighteningly polite leader (Rhys Wakefield), the group offers the Sandin family an ultimatum: Release the man they are protecting or the whole family will suffer the ultimate consequence…
|"My brother Jaime is coming over, by the way."|
"Again? Are you two going to share the guest room again?"
When I saw the trailer, I was instantly sold on the idea; a country where, for one night, all crime is legal and you can murder that annoying barista that always gets your order wrong at Starbucks or finally slam an elbow into the bridge of the nose of that guy who has “Who Let the Dogs Out” as his ringtone and insists that it’s because he likes it “ironically” and not because he really actually enjoys the song AND do so with absolutely no legal repercussions? This concept reminded me of the old sci-fi films from the 70s that offered up a utopian society that had a dark secret as to why the society worked so well. I’m not saying I liked the concept because I have a deep residing urge to murder without any ramifications, I just found the idea intriguing. Besides, I’m too weak to engage in The Purge, too large of a pussy to murder another human being (I have those damn morals and ethics swimming in my brain) and I don’t like guns—anyway, that’s why I have GTA V.
|Plus I don't want to live in a world where seeing this in your neighbor's front yard|
is something that is considered "normal."
The one thing that struck me about this movie is how unsettling it is and how disturbed I was by it. Sure the movie offers up a few “jump” scares here and there but the creepiness of the film extended beyond a few cheap scares. The very idea that there is absolutely nothing protecting you from the guy you accidentally cut off the other day or the girl who wants your autographed copy of the latest One Direction CD (everyone has one of those, right?) is just straight up terrifying. While murder can happen at anytime and anywhere, the idea that a society allows 12 hours of crime-spree freedom eliminates the bubble of security that many of us (especially me) produce around ourselves in order to sleep at night and not become paranoid hermits who refuse to leave our homes and settle in for a life of having a movie review blog.
|"Help me! I wasn't attacked but I fell down and hurt my knee!"|
The creep factor is only enhanced by the group of Purgers who torment the Sandins in order to get at their prey. While the leader is charismatic and engaging to watch, the rest of the group of faceless baddies look like they weren’t allowed to be the villains in The Strangers and You're Next; and considering how much they actually did in the movie, it's no surprise they weren't chosen for those other films. While I understand it would have been difficult to bring in some development to these characters and that putting creepy smiling masks on their faces act as a way of adding anonymity to these attackers and ends up being commentary about how that during The Purge no one is realistically safe and even a smiling face can be the bringer of death to your soft, squishy body, I couldn’t help but feel that this group was nothing but a collection of generic terror bringers that, ultimately, felt overly familiar thanks to their similarity to other tormenters in other thrillers.
|"Other movie protagonist won't let us harass them. Can we harass you?"|
While the man acting as the group’s leader is interesting to watch as he brings a very unsettling form of manners to the concept of hunting down a homeless man and slaughtering him, I felt like I needed to see more of him or, at the very least, see him set up in the early moments of the film. There is merits to having him suddenly show up at the home of the Sandins but these merits become lost as the film tacks on a twist ending that, in my opinion, felt like a sloppy, last minute addition—even though the twist makes perfect sense and is foreshadowed at the beginning of the film. The problem that mostly dominates is the fact that Rhys Wakefield was just that fucking good as the villain that is credited as the Polite Leader—because, apparently, writer/director James DeMonaco doesn’t like giving his characters names.
|"If you could give us the homeless guy, that'll be great. Thanks."|
Therein sits the biggest problem I had with the film: The film’s story feels sloppy and not as defined or refined as it should be. There was so much potential going into this film that it was heartbreaking to see the script so haphazardly put together. While the sloppy story isn’t a complete deal breaker for the movie for me, it just would have been nice to see a story and plot a little more developed than the mess the film provides. While the Sandin family is decently developed and the twist ending is foreshadowed wonderfully (albeit, a little obvious), the lack of development in other departments, like the film’s villains, the homeless potential victim and, as well as, a pointless addition to the story of Zoey’s boyfriend trying to murder her father that quickly gets forgotten in the story and, ultimately, did nothing for the overall tale of terror other than act as a single plot device that could have been handled numerous other ways, it all ends up making the film look like a single draft of the script was prepared and rewrites were not in the cards.
|Here the film provides a great metaphor for its messy script.|
That being said, I did dig The Purge. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey are great as the heads of the family, Rhys Wakefield is so good as the Polite Leader that he deserved more screen time and James DeMonaco (who, by the way, wrote the Robin Williams’ movie Jack—so this wasn’t his first horror film) did a great job of making the film feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable so you, the viewer, can feel the way the Sandin family feels; like the walls are closing in around them as they are terrorized by outside aggressors despite the fact they live in a gigantic fucking house…kinda like they are sardines in a can—wait…sardines…Sandin…coincidence?
|Ethan Hawke looking shocked and mildly frightened...under-lighting edition.|
I liked the concept and potential The Purge had more than the actual film. While the movie isn’t outright terrible, it doesn’t live up to what it could have been. It’s still a pretty average, but decent, movie that is creepy and entertaining enough that it’s worth the watch…and it’s getting a sequel because, you know, why the fuck not? I’m a little worried that a lot of people may watch this movie and start to think how awesome it would be if this idea came to fruition in this country without realizing the reality is they would be the ones gunned down and/or viciously stabbed to death with a salad fork and the themes and underlining morals of the film fly right over their heads as they jerk off their revolvers (like the fact that murder is really, really terrible or the fact that the homeless man is black being victimized by privileged white people but why focus on that when you can just fantasize about how you secret want to kill A LOT of people). That aside, The Purge is a decent film with a load of potential that, unfortunately, didn’t live up to.