Get ready for 12 hours of Hell! A Review of The Purge (2013)
**WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS**
Ethan Hawke has once again made a wise choice to star in yet another well-crafted Horror film. 2012 saw Hawke take on the lead role in supernatural thriller Sinister, which proved surprisingly scary. This year sees him play the patriarchal role in the recent home invasion flick The Purge.
The Purge, directed by James DeMonaco offers a refreshing take on the well-known sub-genre. The film’s premise is slightly unconventional in comparison to other films of this kind. Set in the not too distant future in 2022, the United States has undergone a “rebirth” where crime statistics are at an all time-low and unemployment rates have decreased to a mere 1%. Sounds ideal, this is however not the case as for one night per year, the government have instilled a programme known as “The Purge”, where anybody is entitled to carry out extreme acts of violence during a 12-hour period, this disturbingly includes murder!
The film’s protagonist is of course Hawke’s character James Sandin. A wealthy, upper-class and successful businessman, Sandin has created and sold-out state of the art security systems which has created a slight animosity amongst the neighbors. The main setting is Sandin’s luxurious home which he shares with his wife Mary (Lena Headey), teenage daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and young son Charlie (Max Burkholder).
The first few moments of the film establishes the family well and their relationships with each other. They could be described as archetypal as they embody the usual family issues of maintaining communication which is established through the run-of-the-mill dinner scene where Sandin probes each member on their day in an organized fashion. However, it is clear there is an equality between the husband and wife characters which is evident later on once the carnage is at its height. These key scenes allow the audience to become involved with the characters very quickly and end up rooting for them.
The film plays on some thought-provoking themes. If you had the opportunity to commit violent crimes without consequence, would you? How far would you go to save your own skin and those you care about for the life of another? The way the film depicts these ideas comes across in a psychologically disturbing manner and gives a profound analysis of the corruption in the US government.
The action kicks off when Charlie, who is played with a sense of innocence and naivety as well as intelligence disarms the security system to allow an unknown African-American (Edwin Hodge) into the Sandin’s home. Soon, a group of well-educated, middle-class thugs appear at the door demanding the “bloody stranger” for themselves with a sophisticated yet extremely psychotic leader (Rhys Wakefield). The thugs donne unnerving masks which adds a sense of creepy imagery to the piece. The previously non-violent Sandin’s are now placed in the position of sacrificing another life for their own safety. This aspect of the film is portrayed with much complexity, bringing in the notion of unpredictability for the audience.
Plenty of twists and turns and shocks and scares are in store as well as some unexpected moments among the standard conventions of the home invasion film. The Purge displays a sense of psychological brutality with a truly terrifying idea that suggests its acceptable to kill. You will remain on the edge of the seat and won’t want to turn away from the screen. Issues of prejudice relating to poverty and more subtly race are also questioned, demonstrating the so-called power of white supremacy. The majority of the film is shot in darkness and has the family separated all over the house which ramps up the tension as its unclear who will be around the corner!
The Purge is a clever concept. Its well acted, directed and shot. Its themes are handled well on top of it being very suspenseful. Even as the credits roll, it reveals how twisted and disturbing the law really is, you will find it a difficult film to shake off. Although its not overly original, it most definitely provides a different and interesting angle on its sub-genre. I’d go as far as saying its my favorite genre film so far, this year.
Hayley Alice Roberts.