Review: DeMonaco's 'The Purge' a Dull Waste of Interesting Concept

June 7, 2013

The Purge

Every film begins with an initial concept, a premise designed to grab the audience's attention even before the lights in the theater go down. As far as premises go, The Purge carries with it a bold concept, that the United States has allowed all crime, even murder, to be legal for one night leaving the other 364 days of the year practically crime-free. Unfortunately, writer/director James DeMonaco takes that premise and proceeds to create a dull and uninteresting home invasion movie. With little suspense and absolutely no surprises, The Purge squanders a creative, if somewhat nonsensical, idea by giving us a film that doesn't even need that initial concept. A film about a bulimic called The Purge would have been more interesting.

The home being invaded in the film belongs to the Sandins, a family of four living a wealthy lifestyle due to the father's (Ethan Hawke) successful home security company. As the night of The Purge approaches, 12 hours when all emergency services are completely shut off and violence runs rampant in the streets, the Sandins, like all the wealthy homes, go on lockdown. But when a stranger comes to their front door begging for help, the young son (Max Burkholder) lets his conscience get the better of him, letting the man in and putting the family directly in the sights of the people chasing him. Nothing interesting follows after that.

DeMonaco, working under Blumhouse Productions, a veritable force in modern horror with films like the Paranormal Activity and Insidious franchises under its wing, should have realized a home invasion movie wasn't the way to go here. With all the insanity going on outside the gated walls of this "safe" community, setting a home invasion movie in this world is probably the least interesting idea imaginable.

The Purge

There are so many other ideas that could have come from this premise. Have the family trapped out that world somehow. Dig into the idea that The Purge stacks the deck completely against the poor and is very likely the United States' way of eliminating the lower class altogether. This idea is touched upon by passing radio show broadcasts we hear in the background, but never even comes close to being realized in the film itself. It's when the group stalking the man shows up at the Sandin's door, creepy masks and all, that The Purge goes from squandered concept to painfully boring.

The director has no sense of geography, no workmanship with the camera to keep the intensity peaked. Every decision the film makes; creepy masks, uninteresting action, and that thriller technique where someone saves someone else at the very last possible second forces the film further down a path of boredom. They're almost as bad as every decision the people in the actual movie make. By the time the family begins fighting back, taking out these creepy, masked Purgers with reckless abandon, you just want the lights in the house and in the theater to come back up.

It's no use getting into the acting on display here, since every character seems one-dimensional at best. Lena Headey as the mother of the family may as well have been named Threatened Mother for all she's allowed to do here, and Hawke, God love him, just can't seem to say no these days. Rhys Wakefield as the leader of the home invaders (His character is given the title Polite Stranger) tries to turn the creep factor up full volume, but that too seems squandered with how little of a threat DeMonaco actually makes him.

The Purge

A third act "shocker" probably worked better on paper, but that's pretty much what you can say for the whole movie. We're only given enough about every character and The Purge itself to keep the premise alive, but so many questions rear their ugly head. How does The Purge keep crime at an all-time low? It's not as if people commit crimes just because they have an itch to murder someone. There's usually a real-world motive involved. Do drug dealers make as much on this one night as they used to for a whole year? There's no indication that the police force works doubly hard the rest of the year to keep that crime rate low.

These are simple questions that keep The Purge's basic premise at an arm's length from believability. That's bad enough, but when the story that comes from such a rocky concept is as uninteresting as this, it's time to scrap the whole thing from the screenplay level. That or try to come up with something more engaging than a run-of-the-mill, home invasion movie. Even with that, there are ways of throwing in twists and turns that keep a film's suspense level at a maximum. The Purge does none of that. Instead, it rests far too comfortably on the laurels of its initial concept and tries to be somewhat subversive with all the "God bless America" rhetoric it spews out. But, at 85 minutes, at least it goes by quickly.

Jeremy's Rating: 4 out of 10

Find more posts: Horror, Review




N. on Jun 7, 2013


About as I expected.

ff on Jun 7, 2013


Thanks Jeremy, I wanted to check here before viewing a matinee. I wanted chaos in the streets, mass hysteria, cats and dogs living together....I will wait till You're Next in August and play Sleeping Dogs instead.

mooreworthy on Jun 7, 2013


Can you believe that conservatives and gunhuggers are objecting to 'The Purge' because they claim the movie portrays them in a negative manner. Well...if the shoe fits, then wear it. What a bunch of paintywaisted punks. I would not be surprised if right wingers objected to a box of cracker jacks because the prize is 'commie-liberal entitlement.'

ReDQLulz on Jun 7, 2013


I think it looks great and have heard mostly good things. Here is my favorite review of #ThePurge from a hilarious Finnish film critic...

jillkennedy on Jun 7, 2013


Just finished viewing this film. It surprises me that Universal didn't make them reshoot the was horrible.

Dobis on Jun 7, 2013


Warning: SPOILER ALERT I was so excited to see this movie, as I'm an avid thriller and horror fan. I was highly disappointed, for many of the reasons the author states. There are too many things that don't make sense. For example: -the idiotic son is the one who lets the guy in and essentially the cause of all of this YET he has the nerve to still help the guy AFTER the guy has put a gun to his sister's head? Also, he never once apologizes for his stupid decisions. -the mother has no brain or feelings of her own. She continuously gets upset with the father, when he is just trying to protect his family. Case in point: 1. when she basically tells him to give in to what the daughter wants about dating the older guy; because she was having tantrums. 2. when they are taping the guy to the chair to send him outside, she gets upset with him for wanting to protect the family. She never voiced her disapproval of their actions to the daughter or the son. Wrong or not, no mother is going to sacrifice their children for some stranger. Then, at the end she's all concerned and begging them not to touch her babies. -just because the purge allows for people to rape, murder, etc. with no repercussions, that doesn't mean you can't call an ambulance for help. Yes, the dad's injuries were bad; and he was probably going to die. But to not even think of calling an ambulance to try and save him? -what was the purpose of the killers wearing the masks, if they were just going to take them off? No, not all of them did; but still. It was obviously a gratuity used to scare people, but it failed. -the mother decides to spare the neighbors. What happens during next year's purge? Does she think they won't try again?

Moka Latte on Jun 8, 2013


Well they did say they wore the masks because they dressed to be "terrifying". They also said all emergency systems shut down including police and ambulances

Joaker on Jun 9, 2013


Thanks, for the info. I was so disappointed with the movie throughout, that I guess I didn't pay attention to that.

Moka Latte on Jun 9, 2013


Just saw this movie and i couldn't agree with you more!!. Why would the son even the know the code to the house?!?!?!? You would think a wealthy family with the money to protect their own kids would also take the time to... ummm idk... hide the password??

Straw Hat on Jan 10, 2014


Wasn't the basic concept part of a storline for a Star Trek episode?

Jack Eaton on Jun 8, 2013


Since The Purge is a U.S. Government-sanctioned event, why not just leave the country while it's taking place? If you're rich like the main characters then it shouldn't be an issue.

Grant on Jun 10, 2013


You have to remember that the primary targets in this concept are the lowest on the totem pole of society. I.e. you need to be homeless/poor or jobless. If you are successful and rich, you are protected in a home that should be able to withstand normal everyday weapons. Level 4 and under grade weapons are the only thing you can use. I assume Level 4 and under means no artillery type weapons or anything mechanized like tanks/fighter jets/etc. Leaving the country may also pose other unknown threats like what if the person who holds a personal grudge against you follows you to another country. You would be holed up inside a regular everyday easy to bust into hotel room instead of a fortknox mansion that you have at home. Granted your idea may not be a bad one - start an airline service that flys around the world for 24 hours and puts its passengers to sleep for those 24 hours ensuring guaranteed safety. lol

Pete on Jun 18, 2013


SPOILER: The director should be purged for creating this crap... the son was retarded.. the daughter hovered over her dead boyfriends body and was so upset that he died after attempting to murder her father.. then when the father dies and at the end of the movie she is seen again hovering over her boyfriends body but not her father's body?? Uhm.. the villains in this movie were typical and boring and not even scary... there's so much wrong with this movie im extremely shocked it made it to theatres. I cant explain everything that is wrong in this movie.. it would be a wall of text.. Do yourself a favor and dont waste the 85 minutes of your life on this.

Chali on Jul 21, 2013

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