The Purge


The Purge has an interesting, if a bit really ridiculous, premise. Set in 2022, on one night a year, America’s New Founding Fathers have granted its citizens 12 hours to ‘purge their sins’. They can enact their most depraved and twisted desires, such as murder (politicians and certain weapons are out of bounds), without feeling the weight of the law on their shoulders; it’s good for the national psyche don’t you know? Police, ambulance and fire services lock their doors, as do the residents of the upper echelons of the American elite; they shut out the horrific events occurring outside, yet watch with glee from their 50″ TVs. The poor become the most vulnerable, as gangs of affluent ‘hunters’ grab their semi-automatics and wage bloody carnage on the most defenceless members of society. It’s 12 hours of dystopia I tell you!

As good as this all sounds for the expectant horror fans among us, The Purge absolutely fails to deliver any tension, resolution or continuity within the story, or a set of sympathetic, intelligent characters. Ethan Hawke, his wife, their slutty daughter and geeky son live in an intentional parody of Middle Class America; their house might as well be on the set of Desperate Housewives or Cougar Town. And in spite of some really great character development at the beginning, when the alarm sounds for Purge hour, this film loses all hope and actually lost the entire audience in my screening.

The Purge has an allegory that suggests the 1% mentality, the closed-gate, rich communities and the gulf between the have-all and the have-none are inexplicably linked with America’s violent future, while mirroring the present. Nevertheless, this is completely rammed in your face, replete with overt, problematic race and class politics (why does the one homeless guy have to be black?) and any allegory eventually becomes secondary to the unadventurous gore and mindless acts of brutality. There is one stand-out scene which was grimace-inducing, but that was the only time the movie garnered any reaction from anyone in my screening.

Movies like The Strangers, Straw Dogs and Funny Games, although they all have their problems, at least make you feel violated as their plots get more intense and depraved, even if the endings are…abrupt. The Purge gets scared of its own premise and becomes an average action film and loses its way; I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the weak horror elements or thrilled by the action. There are huge inconsistencies in plot, character motivations (can everyone just stick together please?) and the direction and message just became a sloppy mess. When the ‘crazy’ group of 1% youth turn up at the family’s house – “We don’t want to hurt our own” they proclaim – they clearly aren’t normal human beings; the main guy, Rhys Wakefield, is a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Frankie Howard. It’s a terrible, clichéd characterisation and one that doesn’t make sense with the entire premise of the movie; the idea is that on one night of the year, the normal citizens of the States can go on killing sprees. It would have been way more effective if these normal people didn’t then turn into faux-possessed weirdos that looked straight out of The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

As the film hits fifth gear, it becomes even more frustrating. There are two half-arsed twists that are painfully obvious and the ending is just non-existent. Maybe the movie falls victim to its premise, because, in the direction it went, it became impossible to have a decent resolution to the plot, however that is not an excuse. It says a lot about a movie when cinema-goers all huff, puff and tell your movie to fuck off as they leave. I didn’t hear a good word about it from anyone and the screening was packed.

I revel in a decent exploitation action flick – Law Abiding Citizen. And I find a horror movie that delivers twisted, brutal imagery that makes you feel violated quite exhilarating – Martyrs. What I don’t love is a smorgasbord of plot holes; confused, boring second acts; stupid, unsympathetic characters; predictable linearity; and films that don’t have an ending – The Purge.


13 thoughts on “The Purge

    1. Thanks! Mate, it was so bad. I thought at least someone would leave and I’d hear some positive opinions shared, however everyone left in that ‘WTF did we just watch’, jokey way. I wouldn’t even suggest renting it when it gets released. This is a Channel 4/Channel 5 movie through and through.

  1. I’m going to check it out tomorrow; i hope to like it more than you. I read a fairly positive blog entry about it earlier in the week. Will have to see if I agree w/ them, or w/ you; hopefully the former. 🙂 Then we can discuss in further detail as I don’t like to do so before seeing for myself.

    1. I honestly struggle to see how anyone could like this movie (but not in a judgmental way, mind). I just couldn’t get along with it because I expected more. There are two of us curating this blog, and we were going to see this movie together but she couldn’t make it…now I envy her for saving her time and money!
      Looking forward to what you think!

      1. Okay man, I watched it today, and I definitely didn’t hate it the way you did, but I felt it could have been so much better…

        On one level, I get it; it displays an excellent side to humanity than many of us sweep under the rug, which is there are some genuinely bad people out there, and I am not referring to criminals – but the ones who appear good on the outside who only refrain from committing crime b/c of the law; those out there who actually have evil hearts, but harbor it inside, so no one can see it.

        I used to run a receptionist’s desk for an office of over 150 employees, and I got a first-hand view at how fake people were; they walked around with glued-on smiles, but then would talk about people behind their backs, etc. To me, this was a form of evil. Me, having a very strong discernment I could pick-up on those who were genuine and those who were fake…and I tell you, those who were fake, most of them harbor hatred inside their heart – and anyone who harbors hatred is capable of murder – but of course they wouldn’t commit the actual act due to the consequences, but not b/c they wouldn’t want to if they had the chance…

        And I think those neighbors of the main family in “The Purge” were a great example of that.

        So, on that hand, I liked what the movie was aiming for…

        On the other hand, it felt very choppy; it was all over the place. One minute you’ve got one character doing something and then they disappear – and we’re on to another character for a while and then they disappear; meanwhile you’re forgetting what in the heck is going on with the other characters. I think this was terrible directing.

        The leader of the gang was totally dorky and his facial expressions were not scary at all; nor were his lines that the director thought would be chilling “He’s my friend and you saw what I did to him. So, that should tell you what I’d do to you.” Yeah, that line would be effective had it been given to a better actor. That’s bad casting – or at least bad directing; maybe the actor could have pulled it off had he been directed better. The director should have never had this guy take his mask off – and then he would have been pretty creepy; also, only give him a couple of lines instead of monologues; the more he spoke the less intimidating he was…

        Remember in “The Strangers” when the girl knocks on the door, “Is Tamara home?”…and then comes back a few minutes later and knocks again “Is Tamara home?” THAT is how you do it! That was creepy as hell and totally effective! I got chills when she came back that second time. One line. “Is Tamara home?” That’s all you need!

        So, I like the concept of “The Purge” movie, but felt the execution fell flat and that the directing was just terrible. It could have been so much better had it just did a few small things differently to make some of the sequences more effective. I did like the sequence w/ Ethan Hawke in the billiard’s room; that scene was pretty well done, I thought.


        Oh, and the neighbor’s reasoning for wanting to kill the family; b/c they “got rich off everyone in the neighborhood”? Um, did I miss something? Didn’t Ethan Hawke’s character simply sell security systems and residents of the neighborhood bout them? So, this somehow provokes resentment and hatred towards him and his whole family? Um, were the neighborhood residents forced to buy the systems? I don’t get the problem here. He sells security systems; residents bought them. Okay, win – win. Right? I don’t see the problem here. The family profited from all the sales? Good! Salesman should profit when selling a good product. I don’t see the problem here. Now, if he had stolen money I could see the point, but he was working as a salesman. Don’t know why he and his family should be murdered for this.

        But oh well…there were a lot of things that happened in this movie I didn’t understand why they happened as they did. Like:

        How about when the daughter’s boyfriend came downstairs and shot the father – and the father shot back and shot the boyfriend; and then the daughter runs upstairs to aid her boyfriend AFTER HE JUST TRIED TO MURDER YOUR FATHER? LOLOLOL!!!

        I was like “WTF!?”

        I think she would have broken up with dude at that point and never wanted to see him again; she may have been annoyed by her father, but he was a good father, and of course she loved him; so that whole sequence was just lame. I was expecting for there to be a reveal that the father did something to his daughter that was worthy of being murdered, which would have explained why the boyfriend attempted to murder him….

        But nope. No explanation. There was nothing; nothing more than the boyfriend being upset the father didn’t want him to date his daughter. That was it. I guess he assumes the daughter would still desire to date him if he had in-fact been successful and carried out his plan to murder her father…

        Another aspect I didn’t understand the logic of…

        This movie is weird – b/c there are some really strong elements in play here conceptually-wise…but they get lost under the gravel of illogical action after illogical action.

        I don’t hate it as you did. I’d probably give it a “6 out of 10” and that’s b/c the premise is fascinating…but had it been better directed…similarly as “The Strangers” it could have been an 8, possibly even a 9.

      2. Firstly, thanks for the detailed comment!! You have highlighted many of the points that I thought were absolutely ridiculous but actually neglected to mention in my review.

        The characterisation of the main bad guy was utterly terrible. I wanted him to be a normal guy that had blood lust, not some pretentious, thespian idiot. Also, while I completely understand your experiences to relate to the neighbours, I thought their acting was awful and it was a twist for twist sake. The direction was terrible in this film as you mention, and nothing highlights this more than the shift in tone from horror to action to comedy at the end. I think DeFranco baulked at his own concept.

        It says a lot that Michael Bay was a producer on this movie…

  2. I wasn’t going to see this in the first place and now I still won’t : ) LOL

    Great write up!

    The only thing that could possibly persuade me to see this is if Headey spent the entire run time in the nude, which I am sure doesn’t happen.

  3. Good review. For me, this movie seemed like it had so much to say, but stopped even caring about them, and started caring more about scaring the shit out of us. It works at times, but other times just feels cheap and the most obvious-route possible.

  4. Nice review. I really hated the clichéd characterisation of the main villain as well. Stank of laziness and just subverted the whole idea of the movie.

    1. So true! Never have I heard such snubbing of a movie from a huge audience. It failed to captivate anyone in my screening, and I think that is in large part due to the fact we were all expecting something way more interesting from the premise. Thanks for dropping by!

      1. I think budget was a big problem, which is why we never really see much of the carnage outside the house — which is kinda needed if you’re trying to spin some grand social critique as it’s obviously trying to do. The way it ended up was just dull and small-scale. Not impressed

        And thanks to you, too!

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