Note: This review contains spoilers.
The Purge is a 2013 film by James DeMonaco that introduces us to an annual spree called “The Purge” during which all criminal activity becomes legal for 12 hours. Ever since its institution, the United States of America hits all-time low unemployment and crime rate, all attributed to this practice. From 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM every year, all citizens are allowed to discharge all repressed negative emotions in any way they want. In the movie, we arrive at the Sandins’ suburban household, as they prepare for The Purge.
The conflict started when Charlie Sandin, the youngest of the two Sandin children, lets a stranger into their highly-secured home during the first few hours of The Purge. The stranger is running from a group of masked participants who is willing to kill anyone, including the Sandins, to get a hold of the stranger.
As thought-provoking and ambitious the plot may be, there are some things that felt awfully wrong about The Purge:
- For a seemingly strict, overly-protective, difficult father, Mr. Sandin handled his emotions very well at his son's grotesque stupidity, letting a stranger into their supposedly Purge-free home. If I could gravely screw up without being grounded, I’d sure love to be adopted by the Sandins.
- Mr. Sandin, just like any other head of the family, is so willed to protect his family, no matter what. Just like any other father, he does the right thing, out of his unquestionable love for his family, by readily choosing to hunt down the stranger that intruded their home and give him away to the masked Purgers, before the Purgers does the hunting themselves, killing his family along the way. He’s determined to fight to the death, until he changes his mind after five minutes and chooses to save the stranger, with the Mrs. Sandin and Charlie’s help that did not have a hard time convincing him to do the moral thing.
- Mr. and Mrs. Sandin finally catch the stranger, manage to knock him unconscious, and are now tying up the stranger up in order not to get free. Regaining his consciousness, the stranger wiggles to get free, which makes the tying difficult. To knock him dead again, Mr. Sandin instructs his wife to press on the strangers side wounds with a letter opener (which she has to fetch at the faraway side table), thinking that this works better than knocking him on the head with something, say the vase they used about three minutes ago to knock him dead.
|Photo Credits: Universal Pictures|
- When they realize that their lives might be in danger now that the masked Purgers have broken into their house, the only safe place for Charlie to hide is the basement. But why doesn’t Charlie or Mr. Sandin lock the basement door when Charlie went there to hide? And is he trying to get caught by playing with that flashlight?
- Even when you let a bleeding stranger in, angered a group of murderers, or leave your hiding place accessible, The Purge shows that in times of grave danger, someone will always be nearby in time to save your neck:
- Just before the bloody stranger kills Zoey, Mrs. Sandin hits him with a vase. Zoey is saved.
- Just before a masked lady kills Charlie at the basement, Mr. Sandin arrives and shoots the attacker. Charlie is saved.
- Just before Mrs. Sandin is slashed by a masked woman, a masked man pinning her to the ground, two of their neighbors arrive just in time to save her. Mrs. Sandin is saved.
- Just before the leader of the masked Purgers shoots two of the Sandins as they gather around the dying Mr. Sandin, Zoey happens to be just around to shoot the leader dead. The rest of the Sandins are saved.
- Just before the Sandins are killed by the crazy neighbors, the bloody stranger grabs one of them shoots another, interrupting the killing. Once again, the Sandins are saved.
- As overly cocky and fearsome as they come across, the masked group of Purgers seems to have lacked proper purging training. They seem to have exerted more effort putting together their rhetoric and picking the best outfit than actually working on how to efficiently kill. They only have a helpless family of four to kill (which includes two women, and a nearly-adolescent boy), yet more than half of them ended up killed before dawn.
- Mrs. Sandin finds Mr. Sandin bleeding at the staircase. What better idea to save him than to shout on top of her lungs for her kids to come over, calling out attention from the leader of the masked Purgers who happens to be hunting them? Charlie, by the way, happens to be around and immediately join the scene for the Purger’s convenient killing.
- When Mrs. Sandin says there's no more killing, she means it. And although they outnumber the Sandins, and for a motivated group of The Purge participants, the neighbors meekly obliged and waited for The Purge to finish at 7:00 AM and everything ended OK.
- Why is this bloody stranger being pursued by that masked group of Purgers? What did he do that was so wrong to anger them? Are the masked Purgers a group of vigilantes? What do they fight for? Why does Charlie feel so strongly about letting a stranger in? What is the family’s moral take on this whole idea of The Purge? There was so little disclosed about the Sandin’s “imperfection” that has compelled the neighbors to purge them – why are they so angry at them?
- And most importantly, (and I probably should have asked this first) why does the youngest member of the family know the password to the house’s high-end security system?
There are just too many questions that are unanswered and so many possibilities that are not explored. The story, although promising, is served half-cooked, and there is no strong basis to excite the viewers. The characters are flat; they lacked real motivation that we can identify with. It almost felt like a foreign idea was shoved down my throat and I was expected to digest it without water or taste. There’s just emptiness, and if there was any deeper meaning to the story, it is just lazily told, hence, anyone would find it hard to make sense of. The viewers’ imagination cannot always supply it all. At the end of the 85 minutes’ worth of the gunshots, blood showers, mad laughing and screaming, I was tired, confused, and disappointed.
If this concept was given enough time to be developed and mastered, if the story-telling was carefully planned, the film would have been a masterpiece. Until another filmmaker revives the concept a few years down the line, this film will just be another messy slasher film.