Review: The Purge

Poster for 2013 horror film The Purge

Genre: Horror
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 31st May 2013
Runtime: 85 minutes
Director: James DeMonaco
Writer: James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Rhys Wakefield
Synopsis: In 2022 America, all crime is legal for one night every year. When some uninvited guests arrive on Purge Night, one family is in a whole lot of trouble.




The most depressing thing about The Purge is not that it’s a terrible movie… which it is. In fact, the lasting impression of this film is that it really has wasted a terrific concept.

Essentially, by 2022, a new American government has managed to almost eradicate crime and unemployment by creating an annual 12 hour period where all crime is legal – the Purge. This allows people to release their frustrations on one night. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey play parents whose quiet Purge Night is ruined by the arrival of Rhys Wakefield and his band of sneering, posh goons.

The Purge runs into problems almost from the start. Mistakenly, the film is set entirely on a Purge Night, rather than exploring the wider implications of the dystopian vision. Instead of weaving nuance and morality into the central conceit, James DeMonaco’s film disappears in a haze of muzzle flare and loud noise.

That’s not to say it’s completely without merit. The Purge is full of artfully staged action sequences and boasts a strong performance from Lena Headey as a mother tortured as her children are placed in danger. Rhys Wakefield, though, is the stand out as the grinning posh boy tormenting the family. His performance drips with menace and manages to stay just the right side of silly, despite being turned all the way up to eleven.

Unfortunately, that’s more than can be said for the rest of the film. For a high concept thriller, it spends an awful amount of time relying on cheap jump scares and juvenile rug pull moments. None of the characters act remotely like real people would and this makes it impossible to believe them, and the society in which they live.

The high concept of The Purge is entirely wasted by DeMonaco’s incredible lack of subtlety. Like Baz Luhrmann’s take on The Great Gatsby, this is a film sunk by an inability to harness the power of nuance. Too many sections of The Purge resort to shouty shooty bang bang when there should be some moral fat to chew over.

Aside from the surprisingly fun Evil Dead remake, 2013 is proving to be a poor year for horror cinema. The Purge does absolutely nothing to change that and may well be the worst of the year so far.


Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

One thought on “Review: The Purge

  • 24/12/2013 at 10:11

    From the producers of Paranormal Activity (as is all horror films these days) The Purge tells the story of a near future were crime is at an all time low and unemployment stands at under 1% of the US population, to compensate for one night a year all crime (including murder) is legal for 12 hours allowing society some kind of release.

    The film revolves around the Sandin family who are confronted by a group of college students hunting a man on the night of the Purge who the family had allowed into their home after lockdown. The Purgers (lead by Rhys Wakefield) drastically try to break into the family’s home causing James (Ethan Hawke) and Mary (Lena Headey) to protect their children from the invaders in order to survive the night.

    The main problem with the film is the premise itself, whilst interesting is filled with flaws and holes that just make the whole idea ridiculous. Such as what happens to the serial killers and career criminals of this world? Do they just control their urges to kill or steal for the other 364 days until the next Purge, as well what if someone has a heart attack on the night of The Purge? Is it just a case of bad luck you chose the wrong night to need medical care?

    Despite the flaws of the premise, the film repeatedly ignores the possibilities of the premise, instead of exploring the ideas behind the Purge or the events that occur on the night of the Purge from different perspectives and situations. Instead the film settles for a typical home invasion story that although done well, is nothing we haven’t seen done in many other films. The Purge in the end seems to only be the premise of this film to stop the age old question of “Why don’t they just call the police?” in home invasion films.

    To the films credit it is quite subtle, there’s a running theme that the Purge is just an excuse for the upper classes to exterminate the poor, driven by all the attackers wearing prep school blazers and the person they are chasing wearing dog tags around his neck. The film also contains some strong performances, especially from Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Lord of War) and Lena Headey (Dredd, Game of Thrones) who carry the film throughout. The film also has a twist near the end which allows the audience to get inside the heads of the people during this night.

    That cant be said for the leader of the Purger’s played by Rhys Wakefield (Sanctum, Home and Away)whose performance is slightly cringe worthy, hes trying to be psychotic yet in control of the proceedings but it just comes across as a amateur dramatics’ version of The Joker. He just never seems like a really threat and just a creepy next door neighbour.

    The film also contains some bizarre and just plain weird set pieces, such as the families’ son who builds a spy camera on a chard baby doll on the top of a rhino tank from Warhammer 40,000. The thing looks like a demented contraption from Sid’s bedroom in Toy Story.

    Overall, The Purge is an OK home invasion film, there are moments of suspense and a couple of jump scares are effective. The wasted potential of the premise is the films main downfall which could have lead to a more effective and possible original film then what we got in the end.

    More about the movie you can also find it here


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