Purging our inner demons
The premise of ‘The Purge” is intriguing enough: once a year, in a future America, all crime is legalized within a 12-hour period called The Purge. This results in the virtual eradication of crime for the rest of the year. However, like almost all government policies that seek to address a social problem in one fell swoop, only a certain segment of society benefits from this program. Guess who?
The films opens a few hours before this year’s Purge (its 10th), James (Ethan Hawke from ‘Sinister’) is driving home, happily receiving news of his promotion. His wife Mary (Lena Headey from ‘Game of Thrones’) is preparing dinner, his son Charlie (Max Burkholder from ‘Parenthood’) is playing in his secret spot in the house, and his teenage daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane from ‘Teen Wolf’) is making out with her older boyfriend. Mary briefly interacts with some of the neighbors, who admire the recent renovations in their home. It turns out that the promotion James got was for selling the security system in almost all the homes in their gated community. This bit of info will figure greatly as the plot moves towards its grisly climax and denouement.
Every plot element is set within the first 15 minutes of the film. Having been excluded from the neighborhood party, the family prepares for a quiet evening inside their secured home. That is, until Charlie opens their home to a homeless man who just narrowly escaped his attackers–a group of well-off twentysomethings who participate in the Purge by targeting the homeless.
From here, the family goes through a series of unfortunate events and makesdecisions that defy the conventions of a horror film, resulting in further chaos and violence. One would think, how come they didn’t know better from the previous years? The masked attackers soon make their way into the home, whose security system ironically didn’t really make the house impregnable for such type of invasion, and James switches into kill mode a bit too efficiently it made me wonder if he had military training or something. However, the attackers were also attacked by another set of killers. Mary thought they were saved by the neighbors but she soon finds out otherwise. And the good deed of her son is returned in a big way.
The film succeeds in building tension especially during its first half. But the moment the home invasion began, it just became a bit predictable. Even the plot twist with the neighbors was sort of expected–the foreshadowing was pretty obvious. But the actors gave better than usual performances. The older Ethan Hawke seems to have acquired an almost intuitive way of playing fathers with dubious characters (see ‘Sinister’). Lena Headey is always a delight to see, whether she is kicking ass (in ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connors Chronicles’) or being bitchy (in ‘Game of Thrones’). The children channel an effective mix of being adorable and annoying.
‘The Purge’ makes commentaries on the gap between social classes and on how government policies impact on specific segments of the population. Indirectly it shows that when dealing with social issues and problems like crime or poverty, there is no simple solution to it. At the end of the film, a news broadcast is heard–praising the success of the year’s Purge as Mary and her two children look out at their gated community. Nothing will be the same for them after experiencing the Purge first-hand.