This is why you just leave a bowl of candy out on the porch on Halloween.

Theatrical Release Date: 06/07/2013
Director: James DeMonaco
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield, Tony Oller, John Weselcouch, Alicia Vela-Bailey
Rated: R for strong disturbing violence and some language.
Runtime: 1 hour, 25 minutes


Crap, they’re back with new costumes. Turn off the lights and hide.

I would prefer to write my reviews without injecting politics and potentially controversial social commentary into it, but The Purge doesn’t really allow for that. The only way to describe the dystopian future that is America in 2022 is like the Tea Party won the presidency and proceeded to drive us all to hell in a hand basket. It’s “a nation reborn” and blessed by God, where crime and poverty have been eradicated and every good American owns a gun.

How did we come to such a blissful, well-armed fate? Through the benevolence and genius of the “new founding fathers” who have designated one night in March the annual purge – a 12 hour window in which all crime, including murder, is lawful and all emergency systems are suspended, leaving the people to do what they will and fend for themselves. It’s meant to be a cathartic release for all the evil people hold in their hearts and allow them to “release the beast” and then get back to being peaceful, productive members of society.

The Purge opens with grainy security footage from previous purges, scenes of excessive violence perpetrated against the defenseless. We are treated to cable news pundits (damn, those aren’t passé by then? There go my girlish hopes and dreams…) debating the effectiveness of this violence: does this really heal the nation or is it just a way to eliminate “non-contributing” members of society, like the poor, the sick, the needy. The wealthy can afford to keep themselves safe and secure in fortified homes; everyone else can do nothing more than wait it out and hope for the best.

When we meet Ethan Hawke, he’s high on his own success selling fancy security systems to every one percenter on his block. That’s our first clue that tonight isn’t going to go well for him. He’s on his way home to his lovely family. They’re good Americans who lock their gated community and put blue flowers on their front porch to indicate their support for the purge. They chit chat with their neighbors, eat a nice family dinner and then lock down for the night and prepare to weather the storm behind steel reinforcements. It all seems pretty routine.

Unfortunately for them, their son is a moron (I know, he’s supposed to be a compassionate little dude who can’t grasp the significance of the whole thing, but let’s not beat around the bush…). He disarms their security and allows a desperate vagrant into their home despite the fact that he’s clearly being hunted down. AND NO ONE REPRIMANDS HIM!!! It’s maddening and distracting. Throughout the film, whenever anything bad happened, I kept looking at the kid and thinking “this is all your fault, jackass!” If he were my kid or my brother, I would have strangled him with my government granted immunity. And he shows no remorse at all. What an awful child! I mean, he had one job: stay inside and don’t get tortured to death. Epic fail, kiddo! Epic, epic fail! But, I suppose I digress…

The home is surrounded by a bunch of sinister weirdoes in prep school blazers, ballet slippers and creepy masks. They make themselves abundantly clear through their very blond ringleader: they are their peers, fellow well-educated “haves” and they want their “have-not” victim back or they’re coming in for him. That’s when Ethan Hawke makes his devastating admission: his security systems are crap. Those people can definitely get in and the whole family is screwed unless they toss that innocent stranger out to the wolves.

The Purge has a very disturbing premise and doesn’t lack for tension or for sinister atmosphere, though most of its scares are of the shadowy, “look out behind you!” variety. It’s also incredibly cheesy and the home invasion plot line feels a little stale. Even the creepy masks have been done before in that Liv Tyler movie a few years back. It manages to make you think about the ramifications of this imagined lawlessness (Who will do the menial jobs if we wipe out the lower classes? And what on Earth are the middle class doing while the rich hunt down the poor?), but it all plays out in very predictable ways. There is a definite message to The Purge (namely, it can’t be good to let armed people roam the streets and do whatever evil they choose), but it just doesn’t come together the way they must have meant it to. The medium here is not the message. Violence clearly shouldn’t be the answer, but hell, if I lived in their world I’d own a shitload of guns, too.

2.5 out of 5