With 2 sequels to its name, The Purge has proven it’s a movie people want to go and see. The question is: what is it about this film that keeps viewers coming through the turnstiles? Let’s see.
Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder
Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
There is something profound about ourselves in this film but it’s more recalcitrant horror with no message about mankind. I imagine one still. Because the movie stops at horror, I can only take away stars that make it less effective horror. If it were a rational drama, for example I’d rate it much lower. Still, the metaphors hang in my consciousness.
I’m writing this review more than 3 years after the original film came out. I must admit I had not seen it until this week. This seems amazing because it is a household name in horror and sci-fi in recent years, and I have been busy at work seeing horror movies. The director James DeMonaco is known for the Purge franchise as well as The Negotiator.
It appears scary when the cover contains a masked villain and it certainly is. The part I saw in this film that not everyone may see is the fact that the villain is really you and me, our inner killer.
Watching CNN or any news channel will show you that people are barking vehemently about the economy and most assuredly welfare. To hear some wealthy folks talk, it would seem they want the poor people killed or “purged” as it were. This would, in theory, lower the unemployment rate and clean up the streets. On the other hand, you have self-proclaimed champions of the poor, like Al Sharpton for example, coming to the defense of welfare recipients. He would likely blame the ghettos and shacks where the undesirable poor live on the rich. They don’t pay their fair share. If you’re within a generation of me (born 1969) you are likely to have heard these arguments.
This film poses an idea that we as people are bloodthirsty. In the Purge, for one night a year, the people are allowed to kill the poor. That’s the crux of the plot in this film. People love the movie. I am interested in what that says about us inside. I see the movie as a metaphor. When we practice hate, we purge (kill). I’d argue further that the poor are just as guilty of this. Some people try to appear diffident but hate is all around in this film. In the same breath, neither side is represented accurately of course, I might add. Still, there is something to this class hate that rings true in our world today.
Unfortunately, this horror movie doesn’t stretch out enough as sci fi and more tenderly examine the disparate classes. That’s where The Purge loses a couple stars with me because it could have. According to the director, we’re all pigs.
Horror has less rules to follow than drama, sci fi, and even suspense but there are some rules it must follow to make it scary.
The killers in the Purge are bigger than life and they don’t seem like normal citizens. This is where the masks come in handy. They add to the scares and give the people a “John Doe” look and demeanor. Perhaps that helps my reading of the film.
Ethan Hawke plays James Sandin, a 30 something alarm and security systems area manager. The neighborhood seems to love him due to the fact that he is keeping the rich shored up with his protective wares. We find out later how some of them really feel. There is so much resentment in this film you could cut it like a knife. The most astounding thing to me is the rapid process that causes normal citizens to kill. He has a high school aged daughter (Adelaide Kane) who is in the house with her boyfriend. They have sex (in keeping with the horror tradition). He has a young son (Max Burkholder) who has health issues and a wife (Lena Headey) who is very strong and definitely a foundation for the family success. I couldn’t help but think he wouldn’t be one of the rich with a slaes job. Still, it’s relatively believable.
I see The Purge as a highly violent Twilight Zone where a commentary on human nature is being displayed. I find this exciting. If only I could believe that movie goers at large saw this message. This is a good horror film that engaged me but that I am surprised was made into 2 other sequels. I am not sure I’ll be quick to see #3, though I will see it for sure. I have watched #2 already. If you go purely for horror you will enjoy it. If you want the Purge to show you a message about democracy and humanity, you’ll need to wait for a better made sci fi film. I recommend it to you as a well-made horror film and poorly crafted sci fi with potential.