The Purge Review

The Plot:

In 2022, America has become a 100% crime free country. That is apart from one night each year, known as The Purge, where, for 12 hours all laws can be broken and chaos can ensue. As a security system salesman James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) gathers his family together in the safety and comfort of their barricaded home for the night, things turn ugly when his son decides to become a good Samaritan.

The Good:

Perhaps the most interesting part of The Purge is its initial premise. The concept of a world where all laws are put on hold for a single night to cleanse the human race of their supposed animalistic tendencies is certainly intriguing.

During the film’s persuasive opening, it almost convinces you that the idea might make some sort of sadistic sense, providing an extreme solution to escalating crime rates and collapsing global economies. However, the film quickly slams into some inevitable moral dilemmas.

When the family opens their tightly locked house to allow a desperate man to escape his would be murderers, it sets up a deadly game of cat and mouse. The family must hunt down their newfound ‘guest’ and return him to the determined gang of maniacs lurking outside, or risk a similarly grisly fate for themselves.

Whilst the opening act sets the film up nicely, it’s really this increasingly vicious second act which delivers meatier food for thought. Provocative questions are raised as the family’s young children start to realise that even their loving parents could quickly turn to violent murder given sufficient motivation.

The Bad:

The Purge begins with a promising idea but fails to find a plot to match that initial intrigue. Disappointingly the origins of The Purge are barely explored and instead the film’s sole focus seems to be simply whether such a horrific social experiment might work. Although it is a good bit of fun with enough gore to keep horror fans entertained, it still feels like a missed opportunity to tell a better story. Whilst this family ordeal is presented well enough to make it slightly (albeit worryingly) realistic, it might have been better to discard such petty details and aim for a bigger story.

Leading man Ethan Hawke holds the film up adequately, but doesn’t have much opportunity to truly shine. This is particularly disappointing after his impressive display in last year’s horror hit Sinister. As for the rest of the cast (mainly consisting of James’ wife, Mary and kids Charlie and Zoey) they unfortunately have even less to work with.

Perhaps the film’s most frustrating disappointment is the handling of the unnamed leader of the homicidal gang, played by Home And Away star Rhys Wakefield. Wakefield’s presence alone is fantastic and yet his character sadly isn’t. Failing to give him sufficient storyline or screen time needlessly squanders the opportunity to give the film a memorable villain.

The Ugly Truth:

The Purge entertains enough for its brisk 85 minute running time and horror fans won’t be disappointed by the standard mix of gore, tension and trauma. It might also particularly interest fans who saw 2008 slasher effort The Strangers and were left with an appetite for more. The Purge boasts a core concept that might be strong enough to start a franchise, but a more carefully considered and original  plot would definitely be needed for any worthwhile sequel or prequel.

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