Monday, June 17, 2013

Movie Review: The Purge (2013)

Came back from watching The Purge Saturday afternoon (meant to have this up much sooner, but of course I suck), and I'm still a little pissed off because it turned out to be yet another movie that left me confused and not knowing what to think about it. I hate having to keep saying that a movie was not what I was expecting it to be... but The Purge was not what I was expecting it to be. It does good things and it does bad things. It does unexpected things and it does terribly predictable things. So do I like the movie or not?

The Purge takes place in the not-too-distant future (2022) where the whole world is full of shiny happy people because there's no unemployment and crime is way down. For one night every year though, the government sanctions a night of "purging" for all citizens, wherein any crime is legal for 12 hours and no emergency services are available. The film follows one affluent family on this dangerous night.

So The Purge is a bit of a hybrid - we'll call it home-invasion-horror-thriller-social-commentary. And I can tell that it's trying really hard to be all of these things at one time. At actually accomplishing being all of these things to the audience, the movie is a bit of a letdown. There are a lot of interesting questions raised, just not explored in the way I wanted them to be. I also need to point out somewhere (why not here?) about how happy I was to see Lena Headey in a starring role, as I have never seen Game of Thrones. Love this woman. Ethan Hawke is alright, but his character feels like every other character he's ever played so I was a little less impressed.

I wasn't all that happy with the masked killers. Nothing original about them. They wear their creepy masks and white dresses, and stand in front of the security camera and do creepy things to taunt the family - but these were all things that would have been a lot creepier if I didn't feel like I had seen all of this before. Insert the name of another home invasion movie here (do I have to say it, really?). The leader of the group? He's the dudes from Funny Games, straight up. Hated him, not only because he wasn't scary but also because he wasn't original, like the whole first half of this movie. It gets a little better toward the end when the story gets twisted around a little but not enough to give me a really satisfying conclusion.

Now let's talk about the concept of the Purge itself. When I first heard this concept for the movie, I was picturing total chaos, like people just hacking everybody up with axes or something. But then you have to really stop to think about how many people would actually participate in the Purge, if the main punishment-free crime we're talking about being exploited is murder. I'd venture to say that a good majority of the population would not be able to bring themselves to do it, and would be more worried about everyone else, like our little family in the movie. Everybody in the movie actually seems to be somewhat in favor of the Purge and I was surprised that Lena and Ethan (yup, forgot their movie names already) were trying to convince their children that this was actually a good thing. Either that or everyone is too afraid to speak out against the Purge. The argument is that it lets people get out all the aggression and rage that is built up inside them. I'm calling bullshit on that right now, but I'd probably need backup from psychiatrists or something so I'll let it slide.

Also on the concept of the Purge, the movie never takes the Purge past the initial idea. So okay... you can totally murder someone and get away with it. You can "purge" your world of all the people you don't like. Again, cool idea but they never went anywhere with it. The situation presented in the film really did nothing to help them explore that concept fully - it played out like just another home invasion movie. That subgenre, in turn, is played out exactly the way you would expect it to in a horror-thriller. The victims walk slowly down dark hallways. The killers pop up (un)expectedly. And there are more Deus ex Machinas than I could count, which got really freaking annoying after a while.

And I seriously have to mention this: How is the "no emergency services available" thing ANY different from ANY other horror movie out there? When do the cops and ambulances always show up in horror movies? At the end. So this had no effect on me or the story at all.

This is as good a time as any for me to rant about houses in movies. I fucking hate it when filmmakers try to show us a "typical American family" and then show us this family - who is supposed to be just like us - living in a 3-story house with a two-car garage and where the youngest child has a bedroom bigger than any living room I've ever had. Can somebody PLEASE make a movie where the main characters live in a cute little ranch-style house or something? A lot of the problems in The Purge could have been avoided if the family didn't live in such a huge house - everybody kept getting lost from one another in their own house. Would never have been a problem in my childhood home.

Was this really a review or did I just rant for a long time? Sorry, but this is all stuff that I've been thinking about since watching the movie and I had to put it down somewhere. I can't fully recommend The Purge because it was completely missing that "wow" factor that I have been desperately seeking in a movie lately, but it's also not a completely horrible movie. Others seem to have been more impressed with it than I was, so I guess it's up to you!


  1. Hmm, so it's plays like a home invasion movie in the bottom line?...Good enough for me! I love Homicidal Home Invasions!

  2. I'm in total agreement, there are plenty of great ideas thrown at the wall but nothing is explored in depth. Sequel looks like it's all but assured, so maybe they'll explore some of those idea. As a film, it's solid better than expect but not great.

  3. Nice review Michele. Alright for a couple of jumps here and there, but nothing all that special.

  4. I let myself just relax while I watched. I tricked myself into actually enjoying it. Never wrote my review though. Drats. Need to get on that. Also I liked the Funny Games feel to the Purge.