Released in cinemas 31st May 2013.
James DeMonaco follows up his script for the Assault on Precinct 13 remake and directorial debut Staten Island by reuniting with Ethan Hawke for an interesting dystopian nightmare.
It’s 2022, and a new United States government has eradicated crime and unemployment by introducing an annual ‘purge’. For one fraught and unbelievable 12-hour period a year, the emergency services are shut down, and all crime is legal, including murder. Despite public service announcements praising the effectiveness of this cathartic ritual of violent chaos, the social divide it creates is clear.
On the privileged side is Hawke’s James Sandin, who lives a comfortable life thanks to booming sales of his company’s security system. DeMonaco sets up the concept in a solid, if familiar, manner; wife Mary (Lena Headey) mingles with the Stepford wife-like neighbours and their Purge Parties, and the children (Adelaide Kane, Max Burkholder) adequately fill the roles of hypersexed teen and mini-social justice warrior.
When the son lets in a terrified homeless man on the run from a masked bunch of psychotic preppie types, subtle allegory is out the window, and The Purge quickly evolves into an all-out home invasion thriller. Predictable horror tropes are present and correct, and there’s an awful lot of obvious foreshadowing (will the boy’s morbid robot camera come in handy at some point?), meaning there’s a disappointing lack of tension as the family fight for survival. However, DeMonaco’s film is surprisingly vicious, and Rhys Wakefield makes for a chilling, if slightly over-egged, villain. Hawke is excellent as always as the family man forced to overlook the implications of his success as a salesman, and he and Headey make a formidable pair of desperate action heroes.
There’s a sting in the tail, and the film is darker than you’d expect. However, one can’t help wonder how much more interesting the film would be from the side of Edwin Hodge’s neglected victim and his peers.