REVIEW: “The Purge”

PUrge Poster

We all have traditions that we look forward to each year: Christmas, Mothers Day, birthdays, opening day of the baseball season, the Purge. Well, at least that’s how it is in 2022 America. What is the Purge you ask? It’s an annual 12 hour government sanctioned period where all crime (murder, rape, anything) is legal. This cathartic release of personal angst and pent up emotion is said to be the reason for the low poverty levels and crime rates. Perfectly reasonable thinking, right?

The yearly Purge is the centerpiece for this horror/thriller written and directed by James DeMonaco. Therefore your ability to buy into it will undoubtedly effect your perception of the film. Personally I found the central conceit to be absurd and while I tried to backburner it I never could quite get over the nuttiness of the idea. I’ll admit there was a slight draw to the concept and if DeMonaco had spent time developing a background it may have been intriguing. Instead it comes across as a gimmick for some typical bloody violence mixed with a sloppy and heavy-handed political statement.


In terms of story, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) and his family live in an upper class Los Angeles suburb. James made his fortune exploiting the Purge by selling high priced security systems. The film starts mere hours before the Purge is set to begin. Sandin arrives at his lavish home, wishes his neighbors a “safe night”, has dinner with his family, and prepares to lock down his fortress for the next 12 hours. But obviously they don’t spend a quite uneventful night in their home. A series of events, regardless of how random and illogical, turn their night upside down and they find out they aren’t as secure as they thought.

“The Purge” seems to be constantly straining to generate tension and scares. Most of its horror devices are taken from a number of different movies you’ve seen before. Now and then they turn out to be effective. For example later in the film a group of masked preppies show up and terrorize the Sandins. It’s something that will be very familiar to horror fans and the group plays into the tactless class warfare statement the film is preaching. Yet I’ll admit I found them to be very creepy at times.


But there are also moments where DeMonaco’s direction completely undermines the scene. There’s a sequence where James and his wife Mary (Lena Headey) are searching for a man in their darkened house. The scene features the routine shadowed hallways, flashlights, and sudden mysterious sounds. This might have been effective except for the fact that DeMonaco already revealed that the man is hiding in a closet. Therefore these designed scare scenes have absolutely no effect. There are several clumsy missed opportunities like this that pop up throughout the picture.

The film has other flaws including a fairly predictable outcome and random nonsensical behavior from some of the characters. But despite these gripes, “The Purge” is never boring and it does create some frights and intensity that works. It doesn’t do enough to cover the silliness of its main concept and there isn’t an ounce of subtlety with DeMonaco’s political preachiness. I think there is a pretty intriguing movie here somewhere, but the glaring problems restrict it to being a middle-of-the-road and ultimately forgettable experience.


47 thoughts on “REVIEW: “The Purge”

  1. I’ve been curious about this film, I think I heard there’s already a sequel in the works. Like you mentioned, whether the viewer can put the illogical and absurdity of it all in the backburner is going to be a big factor if this movie is going to work or not for them. Great review as always.

    • Thanks! You’re right about the sequel. I actually saw a trailer for it recently.

      This movie was odd in that it had some moments of really good tension. But it also had some moments that were really clumsy and poorly executed. I also felt it was really straining at times to come up with enough material for a feature film. As I mentioned it’s never boring and it has its moments but ultimately it’s a little unsatisfying.

  2. Great review. This film just kinda failed in it’s execution of an interesting premise. But it isn’t bad. I think it was also mismarketed as a pure horror, when it is rather a sci fi thriller with 2-3 slight horror moments.

    The Anarchy trailer looks promising. I reviewed it on my blog.

    • That’s a good point. There is definitely a sci-fi satirical element to it. I think with a sharper and more focused script this could’ve been a real surprise. As I mentioned it has its moments.

      I saw the trailer for the sequel here recently. Did the first film do pretty well at the box office? I’m assuming it must have if they’ve already given a green light to another one.

  3. Great review! I was so excited to see this movie because it is such a unique idea, but it was so poorly executed. Like you said, they should have spent more time establishing this crazy idea and less time with this boring, ridiculous family. Good idea but poor acting, poor plot, and a poor movie. Despite all of this though, I will probably see how they go about the sequel because it looks completely different from the first.

    • Thanks for the comments. Really appreciate them. I think this movie had its focus in all the wrong places. There was some real potential here but it all seems wasted. And what was Ethan Hawke doing? It surprised me that he took the role but it surprised me even more to see his performance. He was all over the map. Did you get that as well?

      • Absolutely! I have no idea what he was doing. It just seemed like lazy acting, he probably got a nice pay check to draw in an audience and didn’t care about the movie. I was even sort of disappointed by Lena Headey’s performance, the whole movie just seemed so flat.

    • Thanks! It may be worth a rent sometime when you have time to pass. I don’t know though. Ultimately it’s a missed opportunity.

      Are you an Ethan Hawke fan? He was surprisingly mediocre in this. He was in a couple of sub-par films last year.

      • I think Hawke is hit and miss. When he goes into paycheck mode (like Getaway and maybe this), he is not good. But he can also be brilliant (like Training Day or Before Midnight). I don’t know if I’m really a fan. But I don’t know that I’m not one either, you know?

    • Thanks man. I wasn’t 100% sold it was a smart idea mainly because they never explored. I mean I didn’t need an hour long explanation on hour The Purge came about but something would have been interesting. I’m with you though, this could have been a pretty good idea.

  4. Good review man. I actually LOVED the concept, but mostly thought the promise was ruined by keeping the entire film in doors rather than showing us the extremes of the purge all over the country. There’s so much they could do with it, but I thought it was decent given what we received.

    • Thanks man! I think I could’ve liked the concept if they would have given us a little more about it. It’s such a strange and radical idea that it needed a little more attention to get me past the craziness of it.

      Have you had a chance to see the trailer for the upcoming sequel? It looks like it is getting out in the streets and giving a broader look at The Purge.

      • Just watched it, and I can say I am definitely hoping for the best. Looks exactly like what I envisioned. When they locked everyone in that one house, it kind of got cliche, right? Just another home invasion film, but this….this is more like it… IF they do it right

      • Yep. It definitely fell into the familiar and became pretty cliché. If they put together a good script and really expand their focus the sequel could really work. I’m anxious to give it a shot.

  5. Yeah, I pretty much hated this movie. lol it was so cringe-inducingly poorly acted at times, the concept I didn’t have as much of a problem with but I’m right there with Dave actually. Had they expanded the setting to include the surrounding areas and how the Purge was affecting everyone, and it didn’t just zoom in on one wealthy family making one stupid mistake after another, we might have had a really intriguing film here.

    I’m guessing the expansion beyond the home-invasion premise is why we have a sequel coming, right? Nice review Keith

    • Yep, the sequel is definitely leaving the single home location and the home invasion thing.

      As I mentioned to Dave, I think I would’ve been interested in the concept if they would have explored it a bit more. As it is, it’s so insane and preposterous and they just treated as a fact that the audience has to go with. Then there is the mediocre acting poorly executed “horror”. Yet the odd thing is I was never bored and I never checked out of the movie. I think that’s another testament to its wasted potential.

  6. Excellent review Keith. I thought this film had so much potential and fell flat, though it sounds like the sequel is going to be closer to what I was thinking in one… we shall see!

    • Thank you! It’s rare that a sequel is better than the original but that may be the case here. You’re right, lots of p potential but some really clumsy writing. Another disappointing horror flick. If it wasn’t for “The Conjuring”, 2013 would have been a horrible year for horror. I know you liked that film as much as I did.

      • Yeah it seldom happens but every now and then someone finally gets it right! 😛 Hehehe, you are so right on that front! The Conjuring did well, and you and I both understand how it was so popular! 😀

      • And what’s cool about “The Conjuring” is that it went back to simple basics. The only thing different is it actually executed. It was smarter than anything else from the genre by far.

      • There is method to the basics rule, and James Wan just went straight for it and didn’t screw around. He went for atmosphere, not just gore and guts and blood, which is great for a slasher once in a while, but sometimes you want a chill.

        I wonder what is going to happen with The Conjuring 2 that they are putting together… any thoughts?

      • Not certain. I do know its set to come out October 2015 and will revolve around a lesser known Warren case. I know I’m on board!

        Oh and of course Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are signed on. That’s an essential part for me. Those two were so good in the first film.

      • I heard that Wan might not return to direct it, which worries me as he was so integral to making the first one work so well.

        Oh they really worked together fantastically, I did like watching them!

      • Yeah, was reading some articles about it earlier. It seems the general consensus is that if Wan is not involved a lot of people will be losing interest.

  7. I thought this was rubbish. I actually liked the central premise. It is unbelievable as you say, but you could make a hell of a film out of it. But here they just turn it into a middling home invasion flick.

    • Middling indeed. There are so many hiccups in the script and poorly executed attempts at horror.

      And what are your thoughts on Ethan Hawke. He starred in two steaming piles of crap in 2013! I hope he hasn’t fallen into that trap.

      • I kind of like how people like Ethan Hawke and Elijah Wood are embracing these more genre style films. Not just the massive budget ones either. It is great to have actors of their calibre involved and it can only be a good thing. Preferably not too many steaming piles of crap though.

  8. An annual 12 hour government sanctioned period where all crime is legal??! Oh my, I sure hope that’d never happen in real life. I have no desire to see this Keith and your excellent review confirmed my dread.

    • I know right? Sounds like a perfectly reasonable idea to thwart crime doesn’t it? (Sarcasm definitely intended).

      This definitely isn’t a genre movie that you would care anything about. And even if you liked this genre it’s not a movie you would care anything about! LOL!

      By the way, thanks for the email. Look for that post to go up on Saturday!

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