Imagine an America where crime is nearly extinct. An America where the economy is flourishing, and poverty is almost entirely extinguished. An America where, once a year, the law (with few exceptions) is lifted for the 12-hour period of 7pm- 7am. This period of time is meant for these futuristic Americans to relieve the anger and stress that has accumulated over the course of the year leading up to it. It causes most non-participating families to go into hiding and often place their own homes under lockdown. This half-day period of time is known nationally as “the Purge.” While opinions of this idea differentiate between characters, most remain thankful of the good that it does.
The Sandin family, positively affected by the yearly Purge, is the story’s main focus. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), the father, is a high-ranking employee of a company supplying a majority of the security systems to homes during the Purge. Because of this, there is detectable amounts of tension between the Sandin family and its neighbors. As the Purge approaches commencement, the Sandin family sits down for a traditional family dinner. At which, usually parent/child conflict occurs. The children are Charlie (played by Max Burkholder) and Zoey (played by Adelaide Kane) whom, unlike most American siblings, get along surprisingly well and even share a “fist-bump” at the dinner table. Mary (Lena Headey), the mother, seems to show the most concern for her family in such a dangerous time. After the Purge’s beginning is signaled by loud sirens coming from outside, Charlie sees a man (played by Edwin Hodge) in desperate need of help and running for his life. Foolishly, Charlie lifts the barriers set by the security system temporarily to let the stranger into the Sandin home to take refuge. Following him is a rather large and diverse group of well-educated teens (presumably) wearing prep-school uniforms and creepy smiling masks. The head stranger (Rhys Wakefield) introduces himself (though he does not mention his name or any of the names of his fellow mask-wearing strangers) and is the only one to remove his mask. He tells James that the man that Charlie has just let into their home is their target for this year’s Purge. He also unfortunately informs Mr. Sandin that if they do not relinquish their target to them and do so in a timely manner that they will break in by force and kill not only the man, but James and his family as well.
Pros of The Purge:
The Purge does a sufficient job of intriguing its audience with its well-thought-out premise and setting. This, in combination with the sadistic madmen wearing masks that terrify most viewers, does a sufficient job of scaring the audience. The smiles present on these masks hide the real expression on their faces, making it all the more terrifying. What really sells us on being scared is the head stranger. His polite manner leads the viewer to believe that these people are reasonable and sane. I assure you that they are not. His politeness nearly disguises his promises of breaking into the Sandin home as a threat. His sanity seems intact until he shoots one of his friends in the face after he interrupts his conversation with James.
In many situations in The Purge, the viewer cannot help but feel the same way that the characters in the movie do. In situations of panic, the viewer feels panicked as well. Both of these accomplishments are not easily reach by horror/suspense films and are rather commendable from a critical point of view seeing as many films try and fail in doing this. The Purge does a very good job of showing how the annual Purge has intertwined itself into the fabric of modern society and changed the everyday lives of American citizens not only during the event itself, but year-round as well. This was masterfully incorporated into the movie and highly well-done. This cinematic trait is also exceptionally difficult to pull off.
Con’s of The Purge:
Despite The Purge‘s surprisingly admirable qualities, it suffers from some unfortunate down-sides. The first being that a majority of the scenes that were intended to scare the audience were too stereotypical of horror films to scare anyone. The Purge ultimately relies on jump scares and the sick and twisted thoughts of the antagonists to provide any scares. The film included highly overused scenes such as ones where one of the female main characters is hiding under her bed from an attacker while only the attacker’s feet are visible and where the adults cautiously walk down the dark hallways of their seemingly endless house with flashlights and guns a-blazing. These examples of stereotypical horror movie attempts to put the audience in suspense make the viewer just roll their eyes with disgust.
Another factor leading to viewer disappointment was that of the lack of logic used by the protagonists. The family members often made decisions that made the audience mumble a “do this, not that.” phrase to themselves. The family makes rather illogical decisions that tend to aggravate the viewers.
In Review: The Purge was rather surprising. It was much more deep than previously expected and causes the viewers to leave with a lot to converse and argue over. Though the premise and setting were ingenious, the film’s stereotypical qualities also come into play. These two factors mix together in a way that forms different opinions for every viewer. Many will think The Purge a well-made horror movie that got the job done, while others will leave less satisfied than when they entered. The film certainly wasn’t worthy of an R rating because of the over-exaggerated amounts of language. Though the sufficient amount of blood and violence would easily land it a PG-13 rating anyways. As I mentioned earlier, The Purge will form different opinions on different viewers. Going into this movie, expect the best, but prepare for the worst as your opinion will probably differ from someone else’s.