James DeMonaco‘s The Purge is the latest micro-budget horror film from the Blumhouse Productions company that was responsible for Paranormal Activity and Sinister. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey star in this sci-fi home invasion horror film that relies heavily on the film’s wild concept to push the film through its slower moments. The Purge is rarely scary and mostly forgettable, yet its closing act is a great deal of fun that almost makes the film worth it in the end.
In the near future the government establishes a new law. For twelve hours on one night of the year all crime is legal. This means that the rich lock themselves in their heavily-secured homes, while the poor are open to attack and will most-likely die. This night allows for the country to cleanse itself of all of that built-up anger and aggression, while also providing a form of sick entertainment for those watching snuggled up in their homes.
One particular family (led by Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey) face a series of unfortunate events once the youngest son lets in a homeless man that’s seeking shelter. This leads to a group of killers attempting to break into the home and kill the entire family, unless they give up the homeless stranger for slaughter.
The Purge makes for an interesting film to talk about, because of how much it reflects on society. Director James DeMonaco has definitely made a film with a message, but is that message powerful enough to overcome the film’s weaker moments?
Not exactly. The Purge operates as a high concept science fiction film and a traditional micro-budget Blumhouse horror film, which means lots of slow build up moments that are supposed to lead to a scary payoff. The Purge fails on that level, because most of the scares are seen from a mile away and even then they’re really not all that scary.
This is a film more worried about shocking and awing you with how far it will go and not so much general scares in the sense of something or someone popping out from behind a bush.
This isn’t The Strangers. It’s actually much better and a lot weirder.
DeMonaco opens the film with a bang, showing the film’s odd sense of humor almost instantly and constantly coming back until the very end. None of this works too well until the film’s final minutes, which is when The Purge becomes something really fun, weird and self-aware of the comedy that lies inside of the film.
I’m not saying that this is a funny film or the topics up for discussion or funny, but the way DeMonaco presents certain things are definitely funny or at the very least supposed to make you awkwardly chuckle. It gives The Purge a sense of feeling different than your average Blumhouse horror film and for that I respect the film immensely, but I also can’t help but to feel slightly disappointed, because the actual horror elements aren’t that strong.
The film’s horror is robbed due to an annoying young teenager cast as the family’s youngest kid. He’s beyond annoying and shows not the slightest amount of likability. I understand his purpose towards the film’s greater message, but damn if he wasn’t the most irritating thing to walk on the screen. This pulls the film back early on and rarely gives it a chance to breathe.
Luckily Ethan Hawke is a master of his craft. He manages to both save and eventually carry this film to the bloody finish line. Here Hawke plays the dad that will do anything to ensure the safety of his family. Yes, this means killing innocent people or feeding innocent people to the “monsters” outside to kill. His character presents an interesting twist of morals and Hawke completely runs with it.
There’s a sequence of events towards the end of the film that Hawke takes part in and I must say it is at that very moment where the film wins me over as a great deal of dumb fun. Up until that point The Purge operates as a tiresome horror film without any real scares. DeMonaco’s camera work ranges from sometimes creative, to mostly honing in on making sure the audience can’t see a damn thing, which is frustrating and again not scary at all.
But Hawke’s consistency as an actor kicks things up a notch and DeMonaco’s wrap up will have you clapping and possibly even cheering.
The Purge is full of plot holes, way too slow at times and even slightly obnoxious with how it handles its characters, but it’s also entertaining, silly and dumb — all in good taste, of course. DeMonaco hasn’t crafted the next best thing, but he’s certainly made something a little different than what we’re so used to expecting.
The Purge – 7/10