The Purge (2013) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Purge (2013) Review

Horrorific content by Ciarán Coleman on October 30th, 2021 | Movie Review | Home Invasion, Survival, Confined, Suburb

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It’s about a family trying to survive a group of murderers during a night where all crimes, including murder, are legal.

The Purge was directed by James DeMonaco and stars Ethan Hawke (from Sinister), Lena Headey (from Pride And Prejudice And Zombies), Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane (from Blood Punch) and Edwin Hodge (from As Above, So Below).

Survive The Night.

The Purge Review

The Purge’ is the first in a five film franchise, all of which centre around the annual ‘purge’, a 12 hour period where all crimes, including murder is legal.

Every few years a horror film comes along that explodes into the public consciousness and kick starts a (usually subpar but highly lucrative) franchise. Examples of this are horror staples like ‘The Exorcist’ or ‘Halloween’. In the 90’s it was ‘Scream’ and in the 2000’s it was ‘Saw’. Looking back at it now, the intense and effective marketing surrounding ‘The Purge’ hyped it up to be the horror franchise of the 2010’s, a title that was out of the films reach as soon as James Wan’s ‘The Conjuring’ franchise began, not even a month later.

Although in hindsight it seems like there was no hope for ‘The Purge’ to be one of 2013’s better horror films, it only takes a few minutes watching to see how much potential the movie had. The plot and premise, though a tad generic, were ingenious. The filmmakers were almost limitless with the movie’s dystopian plot. It was just believable enough to stop the film being stupid, original enough and (somehow) simple enough that it engaged audiences without confusing them.

The decisions made by DeMonaco, who’s the driving force behind this film, are oftentimes confusing and nearly always boring. Why centre on a rich family? Surely the working class would have far more dangerous and simultaneously interesting ‘purges’. Why does the film try so hard to feel like a home-invasion action thriller? Why not dive into the weird cult like fraternity murderers with effectively creepy masks instead of generic family drama and choppy dialogue.

The main problem boils down to how much potential this film had. Ethan Hawke, an incredible actor, is given nothing to work with and is essentially playing a more wealthy version of his character in ‘Sinister’. He’s even got a strikingly similar, long haired son. ‘The Purge’s premise opened so many doors and instead of going down more interesting routes, it found a home in grey, bleak suburbia. It’s main message (anti-violence?) is lost in generic home-invasion jumpscares, boring characters and senseless gore, so much so you’re left wondering if the film thinks the ‘Purge’ really isn’t that bad after all. 

Rhys Wakefield provides a solid performance as the creepy gang leader and Lena Headey plays the stern mother very convincingly. Alongside Ethan Hawke, they elevate the movie from sinking too deeply into B movie territory. There are several solid scares in this film and I found the final thirty minutes engaging and appreciated some of the slower scenes like the congregation of characters sitting around the table, waiting for the siren to sound.

Overall, this film is immensely flawed, in ways that are oftentimes more irritating than disappointing, mainly because of how easily the mistakes could have been avoided, but it's definitely not a terrible film. There’s more than enough to keep you entertained for the 85 minutes, including lots of great acting, violence and general mayhem.

Worth Watching?

Probably. It’s hard to pinpoint where exactly this film goes wrong (outside of simply being disappointing) but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to like. Give it a go but leave any high expectation at the door - this film’s about as by the books as a horror can be.

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