You’ve got to purge Morty *burps excessively*.
The way I see it, The Purge is the precursor for the shitty horror films Blumhouse Productions went on to make, such as the horrendous Happy Death Day, Unfriended, Ouija and their latest release Truth or Dare. These movies gathered much interest because of their somewhat original concept fused with a horror-like twist and were all made on a low budget, typically costing only a few million dollars. And at the heart of all this, lies the movie The Purge. It was one of the first films (along with Paranormal Activity) to begin using such a format, milking audiences for their hard-earned cash as they went and saw dumb horror films with just enough originality to make them curious enough to see. And it worked.
But when I heard of the idea for The Purge, I couldn’t help but fall into the curiosity trap, interested to see what it would be about and how it could all work. This was my fatal mistake. Aside from how great the premise appears to be on the surface, the depth of its ideas is as thin as the paper, which this shitty screenplay was printed on. It was less the social allegory that I was hoping for and more the dumb horror film I didn’t want it to succumb to. How I wish things could have been different.
As a brief synopsis for those that are unaware of what it’s about and will essentially capture the only original concept from this film; imagine a society that has reduced both crime and poverty levels, as well as even boosting employment results, by creating a 12 hour window where all crime is legal for one day of the year. A time referred to as “The Purge” and murder is willfully allowed and promoted to help those “cleanse their souls” and remove any of the built-up aggression that we as humans apparently can’t help but harbor inside. Sounds somewhat interesting no? Well, unfortunately, that’s as good as it gets.
My main issue is with how ludicrously stupid all of the characters in this story are, which are really a reflection of the plot holes that get raised from the whole movie’s concept. I’ll get into specifics at the end of this review with spoiler talk but suffice to say, almost anything that happened with a person of interest was incredibly annoying. I don’t know why the characters were being as ignorant and as naive as they were shown to be. I don’t know why this film became less of a social commentary and more a dumb home invasion style film. And I don’t know why it was all shot and framed horrendously in ways that reminded me of the shaky camera footage in Cloverfield.
But it also took such a fast downfall that it really did surprise me. After the 10 minute mark, I couldn’t believe the nonsense that was being neglected and the typical tropes that were about to follow. Nothing about this film seemed to be executed with intelligent intent and the choices made by the characters in the story seem to reflect those also working behind the camera. Shots would either be standard and overused close up reverse shots of when people were talking. At times even having the back of a person’s head taking up most of the frame for some reason, almost like it was by accident and they couldn’t bother to fix it. Or there would be shots filmed to include obvious jump scares which weren’t very scary, as well as the action styled fight scenes that looked more like they were filmed by a seven-year-old with shaky hands, instead of a professional camera operator. This film was all over the place both from a technical standpoint and a narrative view.
So, if you couldn’t guess from my scathing review, I do not recommend seeing The Purge. It definitely didn’t make me hate watching it like Truth or Dare made me feel, but I’m more critical towards it because The Purge had a better chance of being original and thought-provoking. Instead, the numerous flaws that I see really do bring it down and make it yet another dumb horror flick. I’m not looking forward to finishing the trilogy if this is how it’s going to continue and I’m doubtful the fourth film being released this year will manage to redeem my low opinions for this series so far. Skip it.
1. One of my biggest issues with the whole premise is the fact that they specifically mention that all crime is legal. Not the murder part, because I don’t really care about that but more so with the entirety of the message and rules it allows. Because how does making all crime legal, fix a lot of society’s problems with poverty, unemployment and general crime that would have occurred other times outside the 12-hour window?
I’m assuming people could do a lot of other normally illegal activities aside from murder, even though that’s what the films entirely focused on. Does having such freedom mean that a person could cripple the economy in those 12 hours if they so wanted to, say, by waiting all year round to falsify their stock numbers, partake in insider trading or illegally complete their dirty money laundering in the Cayman Islands? 12 hours is a long fucking time to do a lot of terrible things that could cripple the economy and hence increase the status of all those aspects “The Purge” night is trying to prevent from rising (crime, poverty, and unemployment).
What if people started to kill owners of stores/houses/gigantic businesses in a semi-military coup situation, to overthrow and completely change the structure of a corporation? Does that mean the person who kills a CEO gets to become the new CEO or install new board members at that company? I see that government officials have been protected but what about everyone else in almost, if not equally, higher positions that can dictate the effects of the economy?
There just seems to be a lot of oversight on stating this one line of “all crime is legal including murder” and choosing to focus on the last half of it. If the premise was just “only murder is legal”, I’d be fine with it and everything else would make sense. But no, because this is meant to be scary and a sort of horror film, let’s just focus on the murder part and not worry about exploring the possibilities of these 12 hours of freedom, even though we could fix any glaringly obvious plot holes by choosing our words more carefully.
2. Throughout the film, it seems like the family lives in this seemingly enormous mansion that’s big enough to the point that when someone yells out, the other person in the house can’t hear them. There were many situations where Ethan Hawke’s character or his wife would be trying to find his daughter or son by calling out their name and for some reason, they wouldn’t respond back. It genuinely started to annoy me because all of those situations were caused by the children just running off randomly and disappearing on their own accord without any concern for the gravity of the situation. Yes, I get that you’re trying to be quiet because there’s another stranger in the house who might try to use you as a hostage, but why did you run off in the first place?
I’m going to highlight the daughter because, after the death of her boyfriend, she freaks out and just bolts off without any signal to her parents. Yes, what happened to your boyfriend was traumatizing, but why are you running off so fast and how the hell do the parents lose sight of her that quickly? This was made worse when we see her first reunite with her mum but then she runs away again after talking with her for less than a minute! What the fuck?!
I know you realize that there are people outside, who are trying to break through the security systems in place, so why are you still deciding to run away like a headless chicken instead of staying together as a family?? They all just play hide and seek from each other for some fucking reason and no one seems to be able to hear a goddamn thing.
Which is an aspect that continues to puzzle because by the third act of the movie, when Ethan Hawke informs his wife that he has decided to stand up and fight the attackers, his son who has been “lost” all this time comes out of nowhere and says “what’s the plan Dad?” What the fuck?! Like right now you just decide to come out of hiding even if your parents were searching for you this whole fucking time and you somehow know where they were exactly, though I don’t know how you could have since they weren’t calling out to you anymore..? Oh, my God. Fuck off. This is just stupid.
3. After the “climactic” ending that sees the neighbour’s of the family fail in their attempts to kill Ethan Hawke’s wife and children (which by the way, has really dumb and stupid motives for why they wanted to do this), the wife makes the decision to wait out the night with those that literally just tried to kill her. Um, what?
The next scene is a cut to all of them sitting around the dinner table and waiting for the clock to strike 7 am to signal the end of “The Purge”, whilst the stranger who helped Ethan Hawke’s family watches over the murdering neighbors as they are kept in a hostage-like situation. But all of it was just so fucking awkward haha.
Did you literally spend the next 6 hours until the break of dawn, watching over your so-called friends and neighbors who attempted to kill you during “The Purge”, incomplete and absolute silence? Could you not maybe just tie them up and lock them in the basement? Could you not kick them out and then re-establish the security system? I mean if the system was broken, surely you’d be able to go somewhere else instead? Maybe to your neighbors’ security systems? If it’s broken, what’s stopping more people who want to purge entering your broken fortress of a house and walking into the dinner table to see all of you just sitting around awkwardly? None of it makes any fucking sense.
4. A couple last points will be fairly brief: I thought the actual security system that Ethan Hawke’s character installed and supposedly somehow profited largely off, was just straight up terrible and so easy to be broken into. If all it took was to cut the power and bring in a truck to remove the front door (which somehow deactivated all the shields placed around the windows as well), what the fuck kind of high budgeted security system is this? Whatever.
5. The main antagonist from the group of purgers had some of the most awkward delivery in lines and unnecessary pauses that were trying to be creepy or scary but were just so laughable and dumb. One of the most annoying characters, second to Ethan Hawke’s daughter.