The Purge (2013)

Part Panic Room part Funny Games, the horror sci-fi movie The Purge delivers in a somewhat clunky and heavy-handed manner a morality play about individual and social responsibility, while managing to remain tense and nail-biting throughout. Starring Ethan Hawk and Lena Headey as the young parents of a well to do Middle Class family doing their best to survive the holiday season (i.e 12 hours known as The Purge), this thriller is the latest in a series of violent home invasion horror flicks that plays in the same key as The Strangers and The Last House on the Left.

The background premise for this horror thriller is pure science fiction shlock. In the very near future the 'new founding fathers of America' have turned the nation into a faux utopia, where crime is virtually non-existent and poverty is on its way out. However as typical of most utopian dramas, there is a darker side. In order to keep the crime figures low, once every 365 days the government allows its populace to run amok on a free-for-all crime spree known as The Purge, allowing for any pent up rage to be let loose on the streets and into the homes of both the guilty and the innocent.

On this one 'Purge night' in particular, Hawk’s family's plan for a peaceful evening does not go as anticipated when his son takes it upon himself to save a homeless man from a sadistic gang of hunters. The hunter’s give the family an ultimatum, either turn the homeless man free, or they will come in after him and there would be no telling where the blood letting will end.

The Purge’s social commentary is thick with its criticism of capitalism, governance and the governed, where at times its almost evangelical tone can be a bit overbearing. Thankfully this movie does not strive for a grounded realism as it proudly wears it social satirical message on its cuff. There is no way a society like this can remain truly functional in the real world. 

Where The Purge succeeds is in the moral dilemma it throws up. Each family member has a differing view of their predicament and acts according to that view. This creates a unique dichotomy not normally seen within the horror and sci-fi genre as the viewer is forced to question and adjust his or her own moral compass when rationalising their position on which character to root for.

Unfortunately the film is not without its flaws. Its painfully contrived. There are moments where its characters act in a clearly unrealistic manner that are obvious setups for later scenes. Whilst one has to question, why would the bad guys on their one night of freedom, waste most of it in trying to lynch one homeless man? Faults aside, The Purge is still a creepy yet forgettable nail-biter that one can enjoy if they ignore its more nonsensical aspects. 6.5/10

Genre: Sci/fi Horror
Bad Language: Strong
Sex and Nudity: Mild
Violence: Very Strong

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