Occasionally, a critic will get a special opportunity to incorporate the title of a movie into a highly original and hilarious pun or box quote. This week, that pun virtually wrote itself with the arrival of The Purge. And indeed it was a purge, in as much as it evacuated it’s bowels all over the screen. BAM! And lo, my powers of clairvoyance have been proven accurate. Last Friday, I put all my eggs into the “inevitably terrible” basket, and my magnificent intellect has once again been validated.
Directed and written by James DeMonaco, The Purge tries and fails so badly at being a horror movie that you can almost hear it grunting from the strain. The striking thing about The Purge is that it’s kind of an amalgamation of other, much better horror movies. The Strangers certainly makes its influence felt, as does Funny Games, Assault on Precinct 13, and perhaps even Battle Royale. Not only does the film have almost nothing of its own to contribute, besides the damnably nonsensical premise, it fumbles every borrowed concept so badly that it almost taints the original property that it borrowed from simply by association.
Staring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey (Queen Cersei of House Lannister), The Purge follows the story of a family of four as they try to stay alive on the one night when all crime is legalized. It’s hard not to blame the actors for the copious shortcomings of the writing, but they certainly didn’t do it any favors. Max Burkholder and Adelaide Kane as the Sandin Children are perhaps the most idiotic, ineffectual characters ever written into cinema. The thoughts of the characters seem to exist in some type of hypothetical nether-plane rather than have even the remotest grounding in the events happening around them. To me, it seems as though the events taking place in The Purge would have made more sense in the same universe as Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. Indeed, if you can convince yourself that The Purge is a spiritual sequel to that film, it could begin to justify the thoughts and actions of the characters.
What you need to understand is that The Purge is just one giant plot hole, and you’ll likely exhaust yourself if you try and search for logic where there is none to be found. It’s almost like DeMarco was so busy ripping off other movies that he forgot to string together a coherent plot. It’s clear that DeMarco wanted his film to fall into the horror genre, but he seemed to have completely the wrong idea of how to go about doing it. He substitutes teeth-gritting tension for jump scares and a meaningful antagonist with a clear motive for a pretentious moron with a bullshit pseudo-political message- which is a perfect segue into my next point.
The level of unironic, straight faced thematic shoehorning here is really gut-wrenchingly terrible. I’m almost reminded of Death Race 2000, in that we’re presented with an almost transparent, thinly spread yet simultaneously impenetrable political or societal message , but at least Death Race had the decency to indulge in self parody. Not only does The Purge have no idea what it wants to say, but what it does manage to say is dropped halfway through in lieu of the only marginally more interesting action sequences and stale jump scares.
Sadly, a sequel to The Purge has already been green-lit and is now in development. Not only does this film not deserve a sequel, it doesn’t deserved even half of the profits that it made upon release. The fact that this film, as poorly written and executed as it is, made so much money, is both encouraging and extremely disheartening. However, as far as you, the moviegoer, should be concerned, The Purge is most decidedly not worth the price of admission.
Rating: 1 out of 5