The Purge: Forgettable Home-Invasion Thriller
Adelaide KaneEdwin Hodge...
From Straw Dogs to Home Alone, home-invasion has enjoyed wavering Hollywood success over the years. The edgier approach to this type of film seeks to transport audiences to the claustrophobia of the plot, making the viewing experience a veritable rollercoaster ride. Unfortunately, The Purge is no more than a series of underdeveloped ideas that just don’t hold up.
The year is 2022 and America is experiencing a new sense of prosperity; unemployment is at an all-time low and crime is all but non-existent. The reason behind this implausible success lies behind the Purge; an annual 12-hour window that allows Americans to let go of their demons and commit any crime as a form of catharsis – one that we’re told keeps the peace for the rest of the year. All emergency services are shut down during the Purge, ultimately allowing citizens to do as they wish without the fear of any consequences.
As a successful businessman who sells the highest-quality security systems in town, James Standin (Hawke) has always benefitted from the hysteria of it all. A supporter of the Purge – but not a participant – James shares a lush mansion, situated in a gated neighbourhood, with wife Mary (Headey) and their two children; son Charlie (Burkholder) and daughter Zoey (Kane).
As the day of the Purge arrives, the Standins prepare for the lockdown and secure themselves inside their home to wait the night out. Unfortunately, their safety is breached when Charlie spots a man (Hodge) on their front lawn, screaming for help. Unable to resist the urge to come to the man’s aid, Charlie disarms the system and allows him to enter. The stranger turns out to be the ‘prey’ of a group of creepily-masked Purgers who only want to be allowed the right to purge ‘properly’; they want the man to be released or else the entire family will suffer the consequences.
Written and directed by James De Monaco, The Purge’s opening sequences promise a great deal more than what the contrived storytelling actually delivers; the violence portrayed in the beginning is relentless and sets up the horror of the Purge brilliantly. Sadly, though, it never lives up to expectations.
While the premise is quite novel, the execution is ultimately very poor. The Purge feels rushed and extremely unfocused in terms of the message it’s trying to impart, while the plot is continually undermined by the characters’ nonsensical decisions. The film combines elements of horror with straight-up thriller, but never really succeeds in satisfying either genre.
Hawke feels unnatural and uncomfortable the whole way through and fails to connect with the audience, while Headey – popular for her role as Cersei Lannisterin the HBO’s hit-series, Game of Thrones – is just as indifferent to her on-screen husband. Meanwhile, both Burkholder and Kane are anchored by their shallow, typically-teenage characters, but make the best out of a clichéd situation.
Ultimately, The Purge leaves you with a sense of disappointment. What might have been an original, if unlikely, premise never really feels like it has been fully fleshed out.