Being the sick and twisted individual I am, I loved the opening sequence of this movie. Over the sweet, melodic sounds of Debussy’s Clare de Lune, the audience is shown a gritty montage via surveillance and home video cameras of people shooting, and beating the bejesus out of one another. Apparently, this is what happens in 2022 when one Purges. The Purge is a 12 hour period one day a year when all crime is legal. Police, hospitals, etc are on hold. Doing so is keeping the violence, unemployment and other social issues that suck in American down to an almost nonexistent level.
Before we talk more about the nuts and bolt of how one Purges, lets talk about the Sandin family. I was so happy to see Ethan Hawke back for another scary movie! And this time he never put on the douche bag sweater and drank too much whisky ala Sinister. He plays James Sandin the most successful patriarch in his charming suburb. James sells expensive state of the art security systems. This is extremely useful when you’ve got weirdos running around killing and maiming for one wacky night in March. James is kind of annoying, but we can tell he really cares about his family. So, that’s nice. His wife is Mary Sandin played by one of my favorite actresses, Lena Headey. We don’t know much about Mary to begin with except that she makes tasty dinners with no carbs and drinks Gnarly Head wine. (Yo, I’m from the Nor Cal Wine Country, I notice that kinda stuff).
Mother and Father have two kids. Teenage daughter Zooey and tween son Charlie. Charlie is a little tech guru who makes this amazing contraption featuring a burned doll, camera and wheels. Zooey is a typical sullen teen glued to her phone and ear buds. Anyway, Charlie is a tender heart and sensitive kid who doesn’t really get why people Purge. He ends up seeing a man on their video surveillance system injured and seeking help from some people pursuing him. Charlie decides to help him and let’s him in. The homeless man he helps is being pursued by a particularly gruesome group of people wearing these delightfully unsettling big, grinning masks. And they just aren’t keen on the fact that the Sandin’s are harboring this guy. Their charismatic leader puts it simply. Either give up the homeless man or the masked crew are going to kill the whole Sandin family. This is where shit gets real.
This sort of dystopian story is the type of thing that makes me super gleeful. Maybe this is Spoiler-ish so, just consider yourself warned. In this America of the future, church and state have merged. The Purge allows people a release for the hate and sin they build up inside of them. And because the rich can afford fancy security systems for their stately homes, virtually its only the poor, the sick, and the weak are actually out there killing each other. Thus making them less of a burden on society because they’re now dead. So there is some really interesting social, political and religious things going on. Not to mention the notion of kill or be killed when thrust in that situation. I wish there had been even more of these “bigger picture” themes going on. It’s really a disturbing concept that for that 12 hour period no one can help you and that this violence and murder is actually encouraged to take place. Side note- I’ve heard complaints that this entire concept it far fetched. I hate that argument! If we are going to start down that rabbit hole then get ready to rule out tons of our favorite and beloved horror movies for being “unrealistic ” portrayals of things that couldn’t really happen. Not to mention I think a creepily large percentage of people would be totally on board with purging. Not to mention I think it’s a thought provoking cautionary tale. And, lastly, this is a fairly original concept for a horror movie, so enjoy that.
*Real Time Spoilers*
There were some really cool things that went down in this movie that I really liked. I loved the scene where Zooey’s boyfriend comes down the stairs and tries to kill her papa!! I didn’t see that coming. I thought the bf was actually in on the whole crime gang thing, so that was kind of cool. I really didn’t like Zooey. Well until the part where she totally offs the creepy group leader. But otherwise I was annoyed and confused with how she kept wandering away from the group to go listen to her pink ear buds while there is a gang of murders outside, a stranger in your house, and your bf had decided to kill you father thus getting himself shot. Ugh. Teens.
What I did like is when James and Mary were torturing the homeless guy to get him in the chair and the whole struggle to decide if they’re going go send him out to die even though he’s done nothing wrong, but doing so will save the family. But the kids would have hated their parents and thought they were monsters for doing that. This leads us to the badass moment where James and Mary decide to defend the home and not throw the homeless guy out there. I would have liked it more if they had immediately armed the homeless guy and had him help, but whatever. I also would have liked more killings. Always more killings and blood! I guess they needed a bigger cast of characters to pull that off.
At the end of the film after James is dead (insert sad face) Mary doesn’t adopt the homeless man. He just kinda goes on his ways after saving their lives. I dig that. I didn’t want there to be anything too showy and emo. Oh! And how could I forget to mention the creepy ass neighbors who popped over to whack the Sandin’s whilst they were having a “purge party”?! Yes, there was some heavy handed foreshadowing that the one blonde neighbor lady. But I still liked that whole little subplot and twist.
In closing: Liked it? Yes, I absolutely liked it. Is it love? Maybe not. But worth seeing especially if you’re at all intrigued by these fun dystopian concepts.