Title: The Purge
Review: As my sister can attest to, every now and then I’ll see a trailer for a movie, point at it, and go “I want to see that.” Then, from that point on, I get a bee in my bonnet that I WILL see said movie so help me even if it takes a few years. Such was the case with The Purge, where my efforts to track it down were sabotaged time and time again until finally….victory. And it did not disappoint.
The premise is a new America twenty years in the future where the answer to economic crisis comes in the form of national venting…with guns and knives and any weapon “class 4 or lower.” The Purge is an annual event where for 12 hours all crime is legal, including murder, and all “good Americans” are encouraged to take part and vent their pent-up aggression on whoever and whatever they wish. This is supposed to be a means of “cleansing” themselves of their inner desire to do evil. Binge now, behave later. This is portrayed within the story world as normal, as good, as patriotic.
Instead of focusing on an epic scale story where characters are attacking the government and making a stand, or waving around protest signs, or staging some rebellion or whatever–can you tell I don’t really care about big scale stories?–The Purge focuses on a single family’s experience of a Purge Night “gone wrong.” When a homeless man comes looking for help, the youngest son lets him into his family’s home, seeking to give him shelter. But the man’s hunters are not quite so ready to give up their prey.
While marketed as a horror movie–and it does have a couple horror-y elements–it is more a nod to your philosophical sci-fi. Or, as my sister called it, a Twilight Zone episode. The Purge doesn’t tell its audience, “Now I’ve learned my lesson that murder is bad” or “Now I’ve learned my lesson we just need to do what we can to survive” (or really whatever it could have stated at the end). Instead, the film opens on a note where The Purge is presented as wholesome, and ends on a note where one family is beginning to question whether The Purge is truly as pure as they once thought it was…while the world at large continues on as normal. It’s a cautionary tale, and also a tale questioning the true purity and state of the human’s soul. Where does right and wrong come from? Is it really okay to go out and murder people even if law allows it? Is law what sets our moral compass, or is our ingrained moral compass what sets the law? Why would this feel wrong, even though it’s sanctioned?
For the most part I enjoyed the characters. Each family member (excluding the sister) has a feeling regarding The Purge. Whether it’s “This is totally legit, people!” or “This is wrong” or even a feeling of struggle as they try to decide what they think.
As a typical horror flick, The Purge would fall short. It’s not that bloody at all, despite its violent core (one character is shot, another character gets an axe in the back, another character is stabbed in the stomach, many people are shot or beaten–but none of the violence is over-the-top), and even the profanity is on the lower end of the spectrum for a “horror” movie (5-6 f-words; a couple of places where the Lord’s name is taken in vain). It has a couple of jump scenes, and there aren’t really any twists and turns. The driving force isn’t mystery of plot or scenario, it’s a question of, “What would people decide to do in this scenario?”
People who like such stories as Brave New World or 1984 (or even Ender’s Game) with the more philosophical science fiction flair would probably get more enjoyment out of The Purge than the action sci-fi or slasher horror crowd.
It’s a philosophical thriller, not an action splatterfest. Know that going in, and maybe, just maybe, there will be more pluses than you would find otherwise.
Content Advisory: While not nearly as violent as it could have been, The Purge opens with a montage of camera footage from around the country during different Purges. Somewhat fuzzy footage show people being beaten, stabbed and shot all against the backdrop of classical music. Later on people are threatened with machetes. One Purge participant takes an axe in the back, while others are gunned down by a shotgun (not bloody). Another character is stabbed in the stomach. Another character is shot, and in an effort to subdue him, a knife is inserted into the wound with the exclusive intent of causing him more pain (bloodiness is comparable to your standard TV show gunshot wound). A teenage girl is on a bed with her boyfriend and presses against him, but he backs off before any clothes come off (her bra is visible briefly). Language is about 5-6 f-words, with Christ’s name taken in vain a handful of times.
The movie is creepy and could really disturb some people given the non-chalant, giggly skipping down the lane feel that the Purge is framed in. In the end, you’re left to make your own decision as to what was right and what was wrong, and to maybe even question why you feel that way.