01 July 2013

Movie Review: The Purge by James DeMonaco

Title: The Purge
Director(s): James DeMonaco
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
Rating: R
Release Date (USA): June 7, 2013

"Look I know that this is difficult to understand at your age, but tonight allows people a release for all the hatred, and violence, and aggression that they keep up inside them." -James Sandin
What if, for one night each year, you could commit any crime without fear of reprisal? What would you do? Commit robbery? Extortion? Rape? How about murder?

This is America circa 2022---wracked with overpopulation, high unemployment and brutal crime. In an effort to save the country, the U.S. government sanctions "The Purge," an annual 12-hour period where any and all criminal acts become legal, unpunishable by the law. And you know what? It works. As a direct result of this purge, crime rates are down and unemployment falls below 1%. But not everyone chooses to participate in this violent free-for-all. When an unexpected encounter with a stranger threatens the safety of the Sandin family, James (Ethan Hawke) and Mary (Lena Headey) must decide if violence really is the way or be forced to face the deadly consequences.

Remember the time I talked about the most disturbing films ever? Yeah. If I had to add to that list now, The Purge would be near the top. In fact, it vaguely reminded me of one of the other movies that made that list. The Purge is somewhat reminiscant of Stephen King's The Mist in that it explores the darker side of the human condition and poses some seriously disturbing questions. And like The Mist, the answers we find are profoundly unsettling. Surprisingly, it's not the violence that makes this movie an uneasy one to watch. Was it there? Sure. But it's no more violent than other movies I've seen recently. Instead, it's the opportunity for violence and the unpredictability of man that keeps it so uncertain and edgy. You're left looking to your neighbor and wondering, given the same situation, what would they do?

Watching The Purge was an experience in and of itself. It's gripping, intense and the second-by-second tension kept me on the edge of my seat (quite literally!). My anxiety levels were through the roof and I'm talking that nails-digging-into-my-palms kind of intense. The action steadily builds into a frighteningly violent crescendo. The movie's pacing is quick and the height of the action is much shorter than one would initially expect, however, it'es nough to get the point across effectively. Any longer and they would've gone overboard. And let me just say, I'm super glad they didn't take that route because, honestly, I'm not sure I could've handled much more. Creepy as it was overall, the film gets somewhat campy towards the finale which left many a viewer displeased. But I thought it was a rather brilliant way to end such an intense movie and was relieved to find those cheesy, albeit brief, moments..

As for the characters, some are hollow but I didn't mind because the people who really mattered were top-notch. Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke shone in their respective roles as Mrs. and Mr. Sandin, but Rhys Wakefield as the villainous leader (credited as "polite stranger") was the one who really stole the show. Like in most movies, you expect the villain to be psychotic---savage in appearance, crazy in demeanor, poor in intellect and speech. Wakefield was anything but. He's well-groomed, rich and seemingly well-educated making his detached savagery all the more brutal and unexpected. Some of the characters, the children namely, are familiar cliches and a bit of the dialogue borders on silly, but I found them easily overlooked when compared to the bigger picture.

Though I thought The Purge was commendable, due to its profoundly disturbing nature, I don't feel right giving it any sort of starred rating. And though it's not particularly scary, it's a gripping and effective thriller. It'll leave you thinking and wondering and fearfully hoping that this isn't what the world is coming to. This movie explores several philosophical musings such as are we a violent species by nature and are humans inherently evil? The answers aren't easy ones to come by and the social commentary is somewhat depressing. It's also one of those rare movies that isn't for the faint of heart. And while I'm really glad I watched it, I'll probably never own or view it again. I'm a huge fan of horror and it takes a lot to leave me reeling, and this movie, it definitely achieved that.


Watch It: This movie is currently out in theatres
Discuss It:  IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
View the Trailer:


  1. This sounds like a profoundly disturbing movie. I saw the trailer a while ago and I thought...this is so wrong, yet I want to see it just to find out how it plays out. My friend said it would make a really good book. I doubt I will see this in theaters, but I do plan on watching it when it comes out on DVD. Great Review!

    1. I kind of felt the same way you did... it's a very difficult movie to watch (especially when it comes to seeing the delighted reactions of people around you), however, it rings with some relevancy, so if you're able to stomach the disturbing, I'd recommend seeing it. And your friend is right, it would make an AMAZING book!


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