Dustin takes a look at the new horror film “The Purge” and lets you know if the execution lives up to the intriguing premise.
Tucked between the major blockbusters of the summer season, “The Purge” offers an idea so extreme, you can’t help but feel bad for even considering it, and it delivers some moments of genuine suspense and straightforward no-frills action/horror.
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the trailer, the film, set in 2022, follows one families night during the annual Purge; a 12-hour span where all crime is legal and all emergency and relief services are inactive. From 7pm March 21- 7am March 22, it’s martial law.
Surprisingly, the Purge proves effective; unemployment is at about 1% and the crime rate is virtually nonexistent. Everyone lives in almost Utopian fashion, with the Purge offering the one outlet for society’s less than peaceful tendencies.
What’s not covered in the trailers is the almost patriotic sense of pride that everyone takes in Purging, it’s portrayed as if it were as much a civil duty as voting in an election, and that revelation provides an uneasiness more chilling than expected. Also adding to the moral debate, is the acknowledgement that those most at risk during the Purge are the homeless and poverty stricken; essentially, the rich go around one night a year and legally brutalize the homeless. It’s not the most subtle of messages, but sadly, it’s realistic enough to imagine that it hits surprisingly hard.
James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) and his family usually sit comfortable each Purge, because James designs top of the line security systems, everyone that can afford one has one (including the Sandin’s entire neighborhood.)
Once the Purge begins, a few problems are revealed that threaten the Sandin’s usual Purge routine. Through an act of bad-decision making on par with “Don’t open that door. He’s behind that door waiting. He will kill you. Don’t open the door” the Sandin’s end up with a homeless man in their house and a group of masked, terrifyingly polite strangers at the door demanding they give him back to them so they can “unleash the beast” or they’ll break in and kill everyone in the house without mercy.
This puts James and co. in a moral quandary; do they give in to protect themselves and turn this (for all intents and purposes) innocent man to these lunatics, or do they resist and fight the intruders for their survival?
These are things that you’ll be able to guess if you’ve ever seen a horror movie or really have even just seen a trailer, but that doesn’t diminish the enjoyment level. The film delivers in the aspects you’d want a horror movie to focus on: the kills are inventive, the action is relentless, the pacing is good and the acting is strong.
Of all the actors, Rhys Wakefield, as the creepy leader of the intruders, credited as “Polite Stranger” and Ethan Hawke shine brightest. Wakefield is all charm when you first meet him, but as the menace in his voice deepens, his calm and cold demeanor become more and more chilling. And as for Hawke, I’m hard pressed to remember a role where he’s been given the chance to be such a badass, watching him defend his home elicited some of the biggest cheers in my theater.
This is not a film that’s going to be winning major awards and it doesn’t expect to be, but try to pretend that by the time it’s over you’re not imagining what you would do if there was a purge, would you hide or indulge? Almost the entire theater stayed through the credits, not waiting for any extra scenes, but all talking among themselves about what they would do.
And that’s the main point of the movie; to offer a brisk 90 minute escape, that sticks with you without you even realizing it. See it soon and see it with a crowd, half the fun is facing it with a room full of strangers and wondering just what they would do in a Purge.