I get it, you know. I'm not dense. I understand metaphor and the concept of a morality play. I can see what "The Purge" is trying to say: That the wealthy in this country have no concept of apathy for those who do not in turn posses wealth, and in fact they would rather them all die to relieve the haves of the horrible strain of having to lend any kind of reluctant, kicking and screaming help to the have-nots. And in the end, we are all horrible animals that will rip each other to pieces given the slightest provocation or opportunity, the odds of which go up exponentially the more wealth you have. I get it, "The Purge." It wasn't difficult to catch since you're about as stealthy with it as an air-horn in a library.
And you know what? Maybe they're right. There is probably something of a point to be made there. The wealth gap in this country is inexcusable, and there is such a massive focus on what is good for a microscopic fraction at the top that the surging masses of everyone else below them gets completely ignored.
But for crying rivers of blood, there is such a thing as subtlety. The best tales of social commentary don't shove symbolism and morals in your face in outrageous over-the-top antics that come across closer to parody than parallel. They are more sneaky with it. What they don't do is create an America where once every year, in an effort to cull the lower class/poor people/unemployed, for 12 hours all crime is completely legal in an activity called "The Purge." This, naturally, means that everyone with the money to have one barricades themselves inside their massive fortress of a home, while everyone else who doesn't have that luxury immediately goes out and kills anyone they can get their hands on in an orgy of blood, since that's what people like to do. Actually a number of rich people go out and hunt poorer people because hey, what are they gonna do? NOT kill someone? That's what any normal person would like to do, right? That's typical healthy behavior yeah? I mean, they're poor. It's not like they're human beings or anything.
Wow. That's so sneaky that I barely saw what you did there.
The amount of stupid contained in the description on the back of the DVD alone is enough to make my head hurt. That's just a dumb, DUMB plot. How in the hell was that even supposed to have come to pass in the film's far future setting of 2022? Did the Tea Party really become that powerful in that time frame? Actually I don't even think they'd go so far as to implement a policy of genocide on the poor, even though they'd probably like the thought even if they wouldn't say it out loud. I just don't think they'd be able to collect the votes to pass that particular legislation through the Senate. Or is this the end result of the Affordable Health Care Act? Is this what Ted Cruz is talking about when he says that's going to be the end of America? Are we going to starting Purging in less than a decade? I guess that's how it starts: First you have people getting health care, then soon we're all piles of bodies in the streets. Man, I had no idea.
Ethan Hawke is James, a successful maker of home security systems who has made like a good hard-working capitalist and made a lot of money selling his wares to other families on his block, all of whom live in mansions the size of a damn football field. Naturally he's got quite the elaborate setup when it comes to his own home security. This comes in handy when, during the Purge, his son Charlie (Max Burkholder) lets in a bloody homeless man who remains nameless throughout (Edwin Hodge) in an effort to save him from a mob led by a likewise nameless psycho in a mask (Rhys Wakefield). Psycho kindly informs James that unless he hands over the homeless guy, they'll bust in and kill James and his entire family.
That's the setup, but most of the film is following James and the rest of his family around in the dark as they attempt to navigate their impossibly large house in an effort to find the guy so they can throw him to the wolves. They try and work in some mild tension like it's attempting to be a horror film, but all it boils down to is someone suddenly appearing behind someone else accompanied by an orchestra sting like it's the scariest thing in the world, a cliche which is so transparent and worn out that at this point it's really no more frightening than a sneeze.
Pictured above - Every crap horror movie you've ever seen.
At no point did I give two craps about anyone in this story. James is a bland character with no personality to speak of. His wife Mary (Lena Headey) is a hypocritical harpy who condemns James for choosing to protect his family, calling him a terrible person when he agrees to let the stranger die so that they all may live, saying bullcrap like "What have we become?" when she's supported the Purge for years. I'm not saying that's the right choice for him to make, but that's because there IS no right choice to make in that situation. That's a lose-lose scenario, and he took the path that most people would: The one that keeps his family alive. That's an understandable decision for James to make, but Mary basically calls him a monster for making it. But that's not to say she's above expecting him to kill when the walls come down and the masked people start pouring in. Oh no. Then she's all about him becoming a killer. What a hypocrite. I can't stand characters like that. I wouldn't have minded as much if we weren't obviously meant to be on her side.
And naturally, the film ends with the rich neighbors coming to help James and his family, only to turn on them because they wanted to be the ones to kill them. Why is that? Well, because he's successful and made money off of them, that's why. Of course, this makes no sense since they're all rich anyway and becoming more rich would probably be applauded in that particular circle, especially considering that it's the poor people who are supposed to die according to this idiotic premise, but hey why would the movie start being not-stupid at the end? So the homeless guy ends up saving those who are still alive, and the Purge ends with the neighbors meekly walking back home as if everything isn't going to be horribly awkward from now on.
I pose a serious question: Have you ever seen a more punchable face? This is our villain, people...
I most admit that this film made me feel physically bad, and not in the way I believe the filmmakers were intending, either. I was so enraged at the notion that every single person, not matter who they are or where they're from, is inherently a psychopath who would gladly kill someone else if only they had half a chance. I'm no starry-eyed optimist or anything, but I generally believe that while the average person at their core may be selfish, they do not wish harm on others under normal circumstances, and the average person would probably not find the prospect of killing an attractive one.
And that's on top of it making me sick to my stomach due to a horrible script, terrible acting, and lack of any tension, horror or suspense. By the way, it must be said that the absolute fastest way to ensure that the audience knows that you don't really give a rat's ass about actually being scary is to simply slap stupid masks on the villains and have them prance around and shriek like a bunch of babbling lunatics. That doesn't make me afraid of them. That makes me wonder why they haven't been locked up because they're clearly insane and could not function in any kind of society, no matter how messed up it is.
Yeah, "The Purge," I played "BioShock," too. That was a good game. Stop ripping it off because you suck at it.
You know what "The Purge" is? I'll bet this is what paranoid, Right Wing fringe maniacs thinks everyone else thinks of them. It's like looking into Alex Jones' head. That's a scary place to be, and I feel like I need a shower.
For crying out loud, the trailer plays "America the Beautiful." FREAKING. SUBTLE.
THE BOTTOM LINE - I hated "The Purge." I hated, hated, hated, hated it. This movie would be laughed off as a pathetic failed attempt at a third-rate home invasion movie in the best of scenarios, but the fact that it's trying to say something but being terribly inept at doing so sinks it even lower into the hole that it dug itself with it's blunt instrument of clumsy allegory. This is a terrible film whose only market is vapid high school girls who might think it's really "deep" because they're stupid and "scary" because they've never seen an actual horror movie in their life.