In nine years, Americans will take their right to bear arms to a whole new level by adopting ‘the purge’, a once a year extermination process that shuts down all police activity and gives the populous free reign to kill anyone they want over a twelve hour time frame. Sound far-fetched? Yes — yes it is — but if you are willing to suspend a generous helping of disbelief, James DeMonaco’s (Assault on Precinct 13) ‘The Purge’ is an incredibly original, thrilling tale about life, death, and society.
Ethan Hawke, who starred in last year’s hit Blumhouse Productions film ‘Sinister’, returns to the production company as James Sandin, a jovial Wasp who installs ‘purge’ proof home security systems for a living. As the Sandin family — his wife Mary (Lena Headey), teenage daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane), and middle-schooler son Charlie (Max Burkholder) — prepare for the commencement of ‘the purge’, Charlie asks his Dad why he never partakes in the festivities. “Because I’ve never felt the need to,” James offers in response, a response that — even before he finishes his sentence — is destined to come back to haunt him as the movie progresses. And haunt it will.
This is where my suspension of disbelief began to falter. Because violence is so engrained in our society, people — filmmakers mostly — take for granted the mental strain involved in actually taking a life. So, even if ‘the purge’ became a nationwide yearly event, there would be less of a turnout than DeMonaco and his fellow filmmakers believe. Sure, some people will take this 12-hour time frame to seek revenge on their boss or surly co-worker, but for the most part, humans are not looking to destroy other humans. As a species, killing each other is a step backwards in evolution.
‘The Purge,’ however, is definitely an interesting concept that incorporates a lot of hot-topic issues — homelessness, the income gap, over population — into a neat, hour and a half story, yet it is not the typical Bloomhouse production. The movie thrills, rather than scares, so if you expect jump in your seat horror from ‘The Purge’, be prepared to be disappointed.
The film does thrill on an intimate level. Just as Dustin Hoffman’s David Sumner character was forced to protect his house and wife from villainous local Englishmen in ‘Straw Dogs’, DeMonaco explores just how far a family will go in order to protect each other with his film. All the stabbing, shooting, and swearing adds just the right amount of cinematic flair to please fans looking to see mind-scarring gore.
By David Morris