Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Purge

The Purge is one of those films that has a great idea, but not only fails to live up to any potential it has, but to even entertain. It's a film that is so dull in its narrative, and so ham-fisted with its message that it ends up coming across as if it was written by a 15 year old boy, fresh off watching his first viewing of Fight club, and trying to be as edgy as possible. It stinks of edginess.

The Purge is set in America in 2022. After criminal offences reached an all time high, the US government needed to find a solution before the country tore itself apart. That solution was “The Purge”, a single day of the year in which (mostly) all crimes are legal. The idea is that with a day in which murder, rape, robbery and generally all violent behaviour is deemed legal, people will somehow... purge (see what I did there?) all violent desires from their system, thereby creating a perfect society. Of course, not everyone partakes in the Purge, and this is where the film tries to crowbar in some kind of poor vs rich social commentary.

The film focuses on the Sandin family, helmed by father James and mother Mary, along with their kids Zoey and Charlie. James sells home security systems, and since there's one day of the year when people very desperately need to protect the lives of their family, James' business is making a killing, and his family is extremely wealthy. So, with the annual Purge upon them, they lock up and turn on their security system, which are essentially almost impenetrable walls for their doors and windows. The aim is to simply sit the day out, but it never goes that smoothly in films, right?

While all snug in their fortified manor, Charlie sees an injured and bloody man on a video feed of outside the house and without telling his parents he allows the man through their security system. Once the man is inside, masked strangers descend upon the house, demanding the return of their wounded prey. This is pretty much what the film uses as a jumping off point, and clumsily juggles ideas such as poor vs rich, the lengths someone will go to protect their family, and the inherent violent nature of mankind.

But wait, if you're looking for an in-depth look at human nature here, you better go elsewhere. But that doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that on a very basic holy-shit-this-film-sounds-awesome kind of way, The Purge doesn't deliver on what the premise promises. When I first heard about it, it kind of sounded like a horror concept of the 70s/80s, almost like a take on Assault on Precinct 13, with the backdrop of a bleak 1984-like feel to it. I wanted something packed full of action, while yes, also tackling some social issues along the way. That would have been great. But we got this instead.

The most infuriating thing about The Purge is the group of masked strangers who demand the wounded man back. Apart from the fact that they wear these shitty masks that only people obsessed with the Saw series would find creepy, they just comes across completely and utterly non-threatening. Plus, the main bad guy speaks so eloquently. That's creepy, right? ... Right? It's the bad guy portrayal equivalent of playing beautiful music during a horrific montage sequence- massively overdone and bland. Oh and by the way, The Purge does that kind of montage too. Yep, no original ideas here then.

The family are just as annoying as the masked strangers though, complete with a mother that just constantly screams, the teenage daughter who is secretly seeing an older boy, and the young nerdy kid who builds a robot that comes in handy later in the film. It just ends up being a collection of jump scares, horribly forced social commentary and Ethan Hawke clearly thinking, “How the fuck did I end up here?”

From a simple action/horror film point of view it's terrible. From a so-bad-it's-good film point of view, it's awful. The concept is pretty great and deserved far, far better than the film we ended up getting. Perhaps much like the Purge itself, you should watch this film to purge yourself of the desire to see any more bad films for the rest of 2013. Probably the best use for it, really.

The Purge gets a pretty awful 3/10

Denis Murphy

The Purge at CeX

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