Given the country’s overcrowded prisons, the U.S. government begins to allow 12-hour periods of time in which all illegal activity is legal. During one of these free-for-alls, a family must protect themselves from a home invasion.
The Purge is set in the near future where new founding fathers of the United States have installed one day a year called The Annual Purge – where violence (including murder) is allowed and will go unpunished. Because America has this day, crime rates are at all time low due to people saving up their anger for the one day. Our focus on the Sandin family led by father James (Ethan Hawke) who installs security systems to aid people in survival during The Annual Purge. But despite having the best security system available, his family come under fire from a polite group of psychopaths who want to get into their home.
While I’m not the biggest fan of the movie, I do actually quite like the premise as it offers up the chance to ask questions about our society. Does restricting the nation to one day of silence really help us get along better? What would drive you to take part in The Annual Purge? Is this kind of violence really acceptable? Just how safe are you in your own home? Are we all being sold on the idea of “safety” from brash salesman only interested in hitting their targets?
The film also does a really good job of not forcing exposition down our throats to set up the story. We’re drip fed bits and pieces of information through dialogue, news stories and radio call-ins which gives you almost everything you need to know. There is still a great level of ambiguity about the new founding fathers which just makes them all the more sinister. That, along with the potential questions raised, should make for an entertaining movie right?
Sadly, none of the questions raised are really addressed and amazingly the film falls apart when The Annual Purge begins. I mentioned in my review of Evil Dead on the Flickering Myth Podcast that I struggle to get behind horror movies in which the main characters bring the horror upon themselves. In the case of The Purge, the youngest member of the family Charlie lets in a homeless man into their house because he’s being attacked which leads this group of polite psychopaths to start invading their home. If the kid hadn’t acted like a complete idiot and listened to his father, the family wouldn’t be in the mess they’re currently in. Had the film been about a random act of violence or a jealous neighbour who hates that they have more money than them (a theme that is set up early in the film) then it would have fared better – especially when asking moral and ethical questions.