Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield
The Purge had an interesting enough concept when I first saw the trailers to lure me in and have me excited. However, I knew there was a high chance of this being a disappointment. Although the premise of the movie is unique, the movie is majorly lacking in important areas. A bad script, predictable scenarios, and a lack of likable characters was just too much. The movie had a few scary moments, but the negatives seemed to outweigh the bad. It wasn’t a total bomb like some other scary movies I’ve seen earlier this year, but it definitely left me wanting something more.
It’s set in the year 2022, where crime is at an unbelievable low. This is because the government has sanctioned a single 12 hour period once a year to take place, in which all crime is legal, including murder. This “purge” supposedly allows society to take out it’s natural aggression which allows for a better society the rest of the year. James Sandin (Hawke) is in the business of selling security systems, which is a good business to be in at this time as you can imagine. He locks down his house as usual at the time the annual purge begins but things become complicated when his son, Charlie, (Burkholder) takes pity on a man in the street and lets him in. It turns out this man (Hodge) is being hunted by a gang of “purgers” and they inform Sandin that if they do not release the man to them, they will make their way into his house and murder his family.
I feel like the biggest downfall of this movie was the predictability to it. Event after event I felt like I knew exactly where it was going. There was next to no surprises in this movie and it really just felt like the movie was trying to follow the basic, generic scary movie story line to a T. Even the “surprise” at the end was horribly obvious from the very beginning. Really the ending felt muddled and lazily put together as there didn’t seem to be any resolution to the actual theme that the movie presented, that the Purge existed purely to get rid of the lower classes of society and give power to the higher class.
The writing of the movie is a whole other issue. It was obvious from the very beginning that the script was going to be weak. It even becomes laughable at some points during the film in which “the bad guys” start chanting together some hullabaloo about the new founding fathers and the good that the Purge does. It’s all terribly unrealistic and makes it hard to believe that this could actually happen, which I feel like is something that the film was aiming to do and a fact that it heavily relied on for success. This all makes for a very two dimensional family that The Purge centers around. All of the characters are terribly bland to the point you just don’t care if they survive the night or not. You can tell Ethan Hawke does the best he can with what he is given, but even he isn’t able to pull through. The best character is probably Rhys Wakefield’s character, as the leader of the purge “gang”, which isn’t saying much as the character comes off as honestly trying too hard to be creepy and weird.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a complete waste of time. I think I was so intent on liking the film that I couldn’t totally dislike it. The premise of the film is a really fresh idea in a day and age where most scary movies nowadays are obsessed with focusing on some sort of paranormal entity. There were a few pretty suspenseful parts and a few twists (as predictable as they might have been) that kept things interesting enough to watch. Along with the short running time of only 85 minutes, it’s definitely a bearable watch.
In the end though, I can’t see this one being one to remember with other horror films being released in the near future. Not terrible, not good, just bleh. I would probably save this one for a DVD rental night where you just want to stay in and indulge in a sub par horror movie. I can only hope that with the sequel/sequels (we all know there will be at least one), that they learn from this one’s mistakes and sharpen it up a bit to become the movie that the story is capable of being.