If on one night every year, you could commit any crime without facing consequences, what would you do? In a near-future America, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which all criminal activity, including murder, becomes legal: the Purge. On this night plagued by violence and an epidemic of crime, one family is tested to see how far they will go to protect themselves when the vicious outside world breaks into their home.
Another horror film
- The Purge review by Alphaville
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It’s another would-be-scary horror film so what do you expect? Every year, for 12 hours, ordinary folk are legally permitted to become homicidal maniacs to ‘purge’ themselves of their killer human instincts. Yeah, that makes sense.
There’s the usual half-hour set-up before the baddies arrive. A family straight out of central casting lock their house down – mum, dad, teenage daughter, younger son. The house lights fail in order to enable baddies to jump out of shadows unexpectedly. Mum and dad search for them with torches to make themselves targets. They hold their torches to their heads to enable us to see their faces.
Yes, all the clichés in the manual are present and correct, yawn, yawn. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey bring a touch of class and it’s competently directed, but it’s a hopeless task. If you have to watch this sort of film, this one will do. It even spawned a sequel. Weep.
While some might see The Purge as a scathing look at the causes of violent crime and the horrible acts anyone is capable of when they are allowed, it’s really just a cut and dry home invasion thriller that twists horror tropes so the films villains are never quit set in stone, they shift and change as the film goes on making for a slick, fast paced bloody caper.
The film, set in 2022, follows a night of all around debauchery and murder called The Purge, a US government sanctioned event designed to alleviate the populus’ aggression and desire to break the law. However when the Sandin family, including father James (Ethan Hawke) and wife Mary (Lena Headey) harbour a man seeking refuge they find their house under siege by a group of vicious killers intent on finding their prey and killing anyone who gets in their way.
While the films world is remarkably similar to our own despite the almost decade gap the idea of the Purge itself breathes life into the film, a mixture of whimsically acceptable violence and legal torture. The film touches on themes of brutality but the violence is so sanitized with a lack of any real blood that it fails to have the desired effect. In fact the reason there is entertainment to be found here is that the whole film is completely ludicrous due to the films ultimate lack of consequences.
Hawke has made a name for himself with low budget successful horrors and this is no different from Sinister, it reworks a similar story but with an addition to the premise to add a little flavour. The plot does keep you hooked for the films slow open but the action heavy finale effectively takes the film out of the horror genre giving you a perfectly acceptable and morally idiotic shooter that thrills but never says any of the things its trying desperately to.