Production company Platinum Dunes is not exactly a name that inspires confidence (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, The Amytiville Horror, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Unborn). Yet their latest backed project leaves remake territory and puts some brains on display. The synopsis is already outlined but the idea of The Purge itself is, in fact, a rather fascinating one. The purge is an annual event, in which a law passed by the government allows for one night a year (for a 12 hour period) all crime (including murder) to be legal. The idea in many ways recalls the likes of The Hunger Games, Battle Royale and The Running Man, allowing a hyper violent near future to say a lot about our current time.
This is film is in parts silly but offers a rather brilliant concept and the plot comes complete with a chilling atmosphere. This is mostly a result of some of the satire on display (yes, satire!), which at points is overly heavy but gets the job done nicely. Were you to hack this film in thirds, the first third is excellent, the second intriguing and the final third goes a bit off the rails but is still fun. A very good opening gives the story a strong start with multiple images depicting violence, backed by brilliant scoring from Nathan Whitehead (whose music is ovewrall effective if a bit forgettable). This opening reminds of Sinister’s evil opening imagery. It is the way society has adjusted in making the purge part of its tradition, which gives the film its effect.
In fact, when the film is debating the morality that comes with the purge, it is at its very best. The Purge is a completely welcome option for a near future set flick and it should be celebrated for its aspirations in attempting to reflect on the culture of violence that has come to define America. Even if, at points, said message is clouded by guns being both a saviour and a curse. Mixed messages and such.
It is true that, under scrutiny, the intellect is dashed and after analysis many will probably pick many faults with the film (and many are here). The Purge is a film with ingenuity and despite its flaws is an enjoyable film. It is never dull and at worst is an 85-minute piece of fun horror. Well, it is billed as horror but the film is more of a thriller really, with only the odd jumps to suggest otherwise. In many ways it is a blend of Panic Room and the Assault on Precinct 13 remake with lashings of The Strangers. The concept could indeed have been expanded more and opened up further and the film undeniably slackens when it turns to gratuity as opposed to confinement. The quasi-religious hokum that comes with “purging” also feels rather tired, as well as not feeling very logical. Is 12 hours a year enough to turn someone into an almost Wicker Man-like fundamentalist?
That said, it helps that the cast lends some genuine effect, with Lena Headey (Dredd) and Ethan Hawke being particular standouts, as the suffering lead couple. Young Max Burkholder is also rather noticeable as Charlie, although Adelaide Kane as his older sister and her subplot is somewhat overshadowed by the rest of the family. Rhys Wakefield’s lead villain is also bit over the top, albeit creepy. The Purge has some good ideas of hierarchical debate, reflection on violent cultures and dystopic framework behind a guilt-free visage and offers a couple of twists (one character shock proving better than the other) too. It may all be enormously silly when properly analysed (an extravagant security system brought down in a couple of seconds) and there are some predictable parts. Yet it hardly ruins what is an enjoyable home invasion picture. The Purge is not as good as Insidious but it is another film under the “from the producers of” headline that is enjoyable.