The Purge Review

purge1Its 2022, the US crime rate has dropped to an all-time low and unemployment stands at just 1%, all thanks to The Purge, an annual, 12-hour event, during which all emergency services are down and US citizens are free to murder, rape and pillage without fear of reprisal.


It’s against this emotionally dystopian backdrop that we meet the Sandin family, an upper-middle class family whose patriarch, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke, Sinister), sells high-end security systems to those can afford protection on Purge night. Celebrating another successful year of sales (because who wants to be mutilated in their bed?) James and his wife Mary (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones) settle down to watch The Purge from the safety of their super-secure home.  But when Charlie (Max Burkholder), youngest child and controller of 2022’s most sinister toy, gives refuge to a persecuted stranger he unwittingly leads a mob of masked, psychotic WASPs straight to their door. The Sandins must either turn over the stranger, to be brutally murdered by the mob, or face being killed themselves. Because, and here’s a shocker, those security systems that James has been peddling just don’t work quite as well as they should…..


The Purge is primarily annoying. The premise is original and interesting and so much could have been done with this, but instead of exploring this fascinating premise, it descends into a very run-of-the-mill horror/home invasion film where the victims are inevitably stupid and ultimately annoying. If you’ve seen Funny Games or The Strangers then there really isn’t anything new to see here, but there should have been because the concept of The Purge is truly interesting. Unfortunately it’s a concept that raises a hell of a lot of questions, none of which the film attempts to address. Why does The Purge work? Why do some members of society embrace the opportunity to kill while others reject it? Who are the ominous-sounding “New Founding Fathers”? Why does everything look like 2012 even though its 2022? Why does Charlie attempt to hide in a dark cellar with a torch on when he has an excellent hiding place in his room? Why are the Sandins so incompetent at defending their home? They could make The Purge 2 merely to address these head-scratchers. The film does manage to raise some interesting themes, certainly more so than your average horror film, but with so many unanswered questions it’s hard to appreciate exactly what Director James DeMonaco is trying to say. Be nice to strangers?


Both Headey and Hawke play their parts well, but both actors have had far superior roles and this clearly isn’t a stretch for them, unfortunately their presence fails to elevate the film past anything more than a decent home-invasion movie. The children are fine, although poor Adelaide Kane (Zoey Sandin) has so little screen time you forget she’s there for the most part.  While there are a variety of criticisms that can be levelled at The Purge,  it would be unfair not to recognise that Director James DeMonaco has created a tense and atmospheric film, if only for the first 30 minutes. The rest of the film is fast-paced but it fails to hold the attention, possibly because everything on screen seems awfully familiar.


The Purge is superior to a lot of horror schlock that’s been released this year (it certainly has a bigger budget), but the fact that  it starts out so promisingly only to lose its way it exasperating,  so much more could have been done with this film. I wanted to love The Purge, unfortunately this was not the case. A passable horror that could have been much, much better, nonetheless, I sense a sequel.

3 Stars



Lindsay Emerson

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