Hey guys, Ben here. Horrorella, friend of Monster Popcorn and a contributor from time to time, is back with a review of The Purge. I thank her for sharing her thoughts with us and I hope you check out her blog over at horrorella.com to take a look at her other reviews. Now read on to see what she thought of The Purge!
It’s not often we get horror releases in June. With all of the summer tentpole flicks fighting for opening weekend dollars, the smaller genre fare tends to be held off until August. But not this year. This year, we got to take a little break from the CGI-infused high concept movies (which I love, don’t get me wrong) and enjoy something a little more on the suspenseful side.
The Purge is set in the near future where America has found a way to completely eliminate its problems. Crime, poverty and our shitty economy are all essentially gone because one night each year all crime (including murder, which is where the story spends 100% of its focus) is legal. This is something that has been embraced whole-heartedly by American culture and has been adopted as a fruitful and important part of our society. The wealthy spend Purge night holed up in their houses, protected by massive security systems, and on the streets, it’s every man for himself. The film follows the Sandins – a typical American family who have been living comfortably in the wake of the success that James (Ethan Hawke) has had selling home security systems. On this particular Purge night, young Charlie Sandin (Max Burkholder) takes pity on an injured man running through the streets and disarms the system long enough to offer him sanctuary in their home (these crazy kids and their crazy kid ideas). But no good deed goes unpunished. It doesn’t take long for the man’s pursuers to figure out what happened and to demand his release from the Sandin home. Should the family refuse, the attackers would be more than happy to force their way in and kill every last person in the house.
While The Purge was born of an interesting premise, its execution was fairly uninspired. It pulls heavily from both Funny Games and The Strangers, which left our villains feeling rather hollow and underwritten. I definitely could have stood to have had our 1% Young Republican Douchebag Leader guy be a little more fleshed out. And rather than going the home invasion route, The Purge ultimately, took more of a siege approach. Personally, I would have been a bit more interested had they gone the home invasion path and let the intruders sneak in quietly, rather than the more military-style full-on attack that they ended up using. Your massive fortress doesn’t look so inviting when danger could be lurking in any of the dozen rooms that you can’t see.
My biggest complaint about movies like The Purge stems from the thing that I love the most about movies like The Purge; that they are based on a novel and interesting concept, and then don’t explore it nearly as much as I would like. The idea of all crime being legal one night a year and the sociological implications that it would have on a body of people is a fascinating thing to consider. How will it play out? How did it come to be? How do the various groups act it out? We get to see through the events of the film how the rich deal with the night, but what about the poor?
Writer/director James DeMonaco did attempt to give us some interesting background pieces to fill in some of these gaps. We got to see that the event was a well-embraced part of modern society, sometimes to an almost religious level. Even those that chose not to participate in it (such as the Sandin family) found it to be an important change that benefited the country. We got to see Purge footage (looking like it was coming in from security cameras) showing various acts of violence on the city streets. We got to hear pundit debates on television regarding the Purge and how it might be affecting society. Everyone agreed that it worked, but was it working because it allowed the populace the freedom to vent their aggression and violence, or did it work because the victims during the Purge were often the impoverished (those unable to hide or protect themselves), thus alleviating much of the pressure on the economy. So while DeMonaco did touch on some of these questions, he barely scratched the surface of exploring the impact that this one night has had on our culture. And at a runtime of only 85 minutes, there was definitely room for more.
While not perfect and carrying some questionable plot developments late in the game, I still found myself engaged and enjoying it. DeMonaco did a good job of building tension in the middle of the film. There were some truly suspenseful moments. The thematic messages got a bit heavy-handed at times, but the premise was still a fascinating one.
But despite its flaws, I enjoyed The Purge and am happy that it is doing so well at the box office. Films like The Purge are always an interesting addition to horror because they offer something a little different. Siege and home invasion films have been done a thousand times before, but when you set them against an interesting backdrop, they become something altogether new. While not a masterpiece, The Purge proves to be an interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking little piece of horror.
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