Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, Max Burkholder, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield
Written by James DeMonaco
Running Time: 85 mins
Release date: 31st May 2013
Isn’t it annoying when a premise comes along that sounds really interesting and then you see the movie and that premise is kind of wasted? Well that’s what i thought of The Purge. The initial idea sounds intriguing and half of the movie works fine but then it’s as if it was hijacked by someone who wasn’t convinced that it would work solely as a siege thriller but made it into another violent yet forgettable horror for the teen set to brag about experiencing in school on Monday morning.
It’s 2021 and in America, a new Founding Fathers have introduced a law that works. Unemployment is down to 1% and crime doesn’t exist, only on one night when, for 12 hours, the law is non-existent and people can take The Purge, meaning they can commit any criminal act they want and get away with it, including murder. Top security salesman, James Stanin, lives with his wife and two children in an enormous house on an estate that he has basically sold all his security systems to. So the night of The Purge is upon them and at 7pm, the house goes into lock-down, meaning nothing can get in or out until the next morning. Little does James know that his daughter’s boyfriend has sneaked in and wants a face-to-face confrontation with him and his son sees a stranger in the street on their CCTV system, calling for help and allows the man to enter their home. Not knowing that a group of Purgers want the stranger to kill and unless the Stanin’s give him up, they will come in.
So there you have it. As I said the initial idea is both imaginative and the possibilities are endless. However, writer/director James DeMonaco seems unconvinced with his own idea and allows it to stray into a ludicrous and often vicious semi-horror instead of a tense stand-off. Ideas are thrown around but never fully conceived or decently concluded, making the film seem rushed. There’s no real character development, so you have no emotional attachment and it becomes just another staking your prey horror, which is a huge cop-out.
I know that DeManaco is a strong writer. He wrote the screenplay for the excellent The Negotiator and the remake of Assault On Precinct 13, which has some similarities. The only difference is that with Assault, it was an out-and-out thriller. Once the film moves into the horror genre, it loses any real tension or, for that matter, logic. By the end, in what has to be the weakest finale ever, the final twist being seen coming a from almost the off, you find yourself questioning whether this is actually entertaining or not. My conclusion? No, it’s just plain nasty.
The cast are wasted too. I’m not sure what is happening to Ethan Hawke’s career of late but it’s not going down a decent path. Starring in schlocky horrors isn’t what i’d imagine the former king of the indie to be doing. Thankfully he’s back with Julie Delpy in Before Midnight. Even Brit Lena Headey is wasted here, the pair playing characters that, quite frankly, could have been given to no-namers. They are not given anything to really do except look scared and wander around in the the dark.
Only former Home and Away star Rhys Wakefield comes away with any real merit. As the Polite Stranger, who comes knocking for the family’s uninvited guest, he has the face of a pure villain and his smile is as creepy as The Joker’s in The Dark Knight.
So we have a first half of a film that is reasonably intriguing but as soon as the lights go out, we get scenes that are difficult to follow and acts of random violence that don’t particularly shock but aren’t that pleasant to sit through. This could quite easily have been the new Straw Dogs but instead it’s just another exploitation film that, if made in the 70s and with a smaller budget, would probably have been a little bit of fun. Instead, this thriller leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and if it had some humour injected into it, it could have been more palatable. So a film definitely of two halves. Same the second couldn’t have been as interesting as the first.