August 1, 2013
In the year 2022, the US government under its "New Founding Fathers" enact a law enabling an annual event called "The Purge". On that specific 12-hour period in the month of March, from 7 pm to 7 am the following day, vigilantes can legally go around town killing "undesirables" of society.
This film follows the Sandin family, an affluent family living in a huge mansion, on one particular Purge Night.
Father James (Ethan Hawke) is a typical successful businessman, working for a security systems company. Mother Mary (Lena Headey of Game of Thrones) lives the life of a typical rich suburban housewife. Their teenage kids Zoey and Charlie are typically annoying and detached from their parents.
The Sandin house is a fortress of security so no untoward incidents were expected that night. The problem starts when young Charlie naively lets a certain Bloody Stranger (Edwin Hodge) asking for help to seek refuge in their house. A little while later, a group of masked college-age vigilantes led by their Polite Leader (Rhys Wakefield) goes up to the Sandin house and demands them to hand over Bloody Stranger or else hell will break loose. It does.
The unusual premise of the film will grip you with its seeming inhumanity. Set in the near future, you will get to thinking why a law like this would ever be enacted. Is this a wise law that will actually benefit society? Will the crime rate really decrease with this grisly yearly ritual?
Those moments when you see the Bloody Stranger on the Sandin CCTV monitor, your pulse rate will begin to race. The build up of suspense was excellent right up to the moment when Polite Leader and his group show up at the doorstep. After that, the movie just devolves into another typical film depicting the violent violation of a private home.
Characters will be doing what we, the audience, will think is the most stupid possible option given those situations. Such is the norm in most horror films, isn't it? This film is not immune to those clichés.
Since murder is legal in that world, murders will happen. This film will not shirk from violence, probably to send a message how senseless violence can be. That is it the educated set that seems to promote this culture of violence on Purge Day is an eye-opener in this age where the power of access to social media is already dictating societal norms presently.
I had hoped that there would have been a more detailed depiction of the aftermath of that Purge Day. Those faceless voices, snippets from radio broadcasts, we hear over the closing credits, were haunting and disturbing. But that will be all we get. We want to know more about this new world order. Unfortunately the film makers do not give us more insight to the wider implications of their original idea. 5/10.