Review: The Purge

What with The Purge: Anarchy coming out this week, I decided I best catch up with last year’s film that I failed to catch in cinemas. I had been told already that it was a bad movie, but sadly it didn’t fail to live up to its reputation.
The Purge is set in near-future America where for one night in the year, all crime is legal. The film follows Ethan Hawke, a wealthy husband and father of two who designs home security against The Purge, but when his son rescues a homeless man and takes him into their home, a band of purgers arrive demanding their prey back otherwise they will kill everyone in the house to find him…

It has been said many times, but The Purge has a great premise, with near endless possibilities, and is not entirely dismissible as a real concept: society is seen to benefit from it as individuals can vent their most terrible anger and frustrations for just one night, rendering every other day of the year peaceful. What would you do during such an event, where you could do anything that is normally prohibited?
But unfortunately… the film takes this inspired, original premise and takes it down to its most base implementation: James, our protagonist, must defend his home from a horde of murderers. Yawn!

As a result the film is terribly uninteresting and very cliche. I find that horror films, or slasher films in this case, rely upon their setup, and you can tell a lot about them from the first fifteen minutes. The Purge needed to show more of its premise and its effect on the country as a whole before reducing it down to the narrow setting of one house; this feels like a sequel to a better movie. With such a premise, well developed characters can swing wildly out of balance; we could see seemingly normal everyday people commit crimes no one would expect of them. This film should be a fantastic delve into complex and/or deplorable acts humans are capable of!

But what little character building we get in the first few minutes is so transparently deliberate that there are zero surprises for the rest of the film; you know how it is going to play out, even down to its final dying minutes.
It isn’t laughably bad (although of course there are moments of character stupidity) but it is so mercilessly bland and colourless to behold that it is instantly forgettable. A lot of the film is shot in their house after the power has been cut, so we see a lot of stumbling about in pitch dark corridors, coupled with some of the lamest jump scares I’ve seen in recent memory (and I tend to fall for them, even the predictable ones, but some of these didn’t even make me blink.)

Which is all very sad, because the premise is extremely interesting… but I cannot say that this film is worth watching for the premise alone since it so badly misses the opportunity.

I somehow doubt this year’s Anarchy will require watching The Purge in advance… So really there isn’t much here to be interested in.


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