It’s always interesting to live during the times depicted in films, and to see how accurate the filmmakers’ predictions were. There were no Mattel Hoverboards or self-lacing Nikes in 2015, per Back to the Future Part II (1989), but girls were wearing those puffy vests. New York City isn’t a massive prison colony—at least, not as depicted in Escape from New York (1981).
And in 2022, crime runs rampant all the time, not just one night a year. Even so, it’s still technically illegal to murder, steal, and pillage (unless you live in California), so 2013’s The Purge isn’t 100% accurate in that regard.
The Purge is one of those films that does what horror/science-fiction do best: asks unsettling questions about human nature. In an age where we like to believe violence is rare and brutish, The Purge argues otherwise: that we need an outlet for our pent-up rage and frustrations, and it should be all let loose on one bloody night.
Would it work? It’s too horrendous to contemplate—even if one night of mayhem would cure the ills of crime the other 364 days of the year, the cost would not be worth the benefit. It would also be grossly immoral.
But it does offer an intriguing look into how society functions, and the things we do to protect ourselves. The film also explores the nature of envy and greed.
Regular contributor Pontiac Dream 39—now Always a Kid for Today, or just “Mike”—offers up another excellent film review. I’ve largely left it unedited, other than mild style changes, so enjoy his British spellings of words—and his trenchant insights into a disturbing film with a fascinating premise.
Have you ever wondered what life would be like with minimal to zero crime? Not having to wake up on a day and read, watch or listen to news of murder, battery or rape over your morning Cornflakes? Being able to walk through any neighbourhood without the worry of being robbed or sodomised? Well, that sort of world has been idolised in fiction in the past, usually an illusion of liberal utopia with dark dystopian underlying elements. The society I’m talking about isn’t the Cocteau created dystopia of Demolition Man with its joy joy feelings or the restrictive dystopia of Nineteen Eighty Four and Orwell’s rigidly controlled Oceana. No, I’m referring to 2022 America, where one night of the year has been designated to The Purge (2013), a government sanctioned free for all on crime.
Unemployment is at 1%.
Crime is at an all-time low.
Violence barely exists.
With one exception…’
‘Blessed be the New Founding Fathers for letting us Purge and cleanse our souls, Blessed be America, a nation reborn.’
This dark thriller follows the Sandin family as they try to sit out the events of Purge night. What starts as an uneventful evening rapidly escalates into something else as a homeless man, on the run from wealthy purgers, is allowed into the Sandin home by their youngest son, Charlie. The purgers descend on the Sandin home and issue them with an ultimatum: release the homeless man or suffer the consequences.
The pace and tone for this film is near perfect and there are enough twists and turns to keep you interested. The characters are intensely believable and the family dynamic works well, relaxed yet aloof at the start and more panicked as they grow closer to the denouement. Just what you’d expect when events turn from normal to frantic. The teenage daughter, Zoe, is more interested in making out with her boyfriend than discussing her day with her family; the youngest, Charlie, an OCD ridden technophile, still questioning his parents on things he tries to understand, like the point of Purge night. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, as James and Mary Sandin, do a great job as the father chuffed at achieving top sales for the year, looking for a boat to buy while the Purge starts, and the mother trying to keep her mind and body occupied before they’re called upon to keep their kids safe when the purgers attack their house. In the upper class neighbourhood the film is set in, even the neighbours play their part, all fake smiles and inane chit chat until their intentions become clear at the end.
Rhys Wakefield, the Ivy league, well spoken leader of the purgers, is as charismatic as he is menacing and Edwin Hodge, who pops up for two of the sequels, provides adequate prey for not only the purgers but the Sandins too, as they find themselves at odds with the ethics of the night and trying to protect themselves against it.
There are some lovely touches to this film like the opening credits, which are as amazing as they are bleak and disturbing. One of the most beautiful pieces of music ever recorded (Debussy’s Clair De Lune) played to CCTV footage of Purge participants.
To me, it reflects the twisted nature of what the Founding Fathers believe Purge night to be – pure and cleansing.
I love movies that make you question the world around you, even each other, and this film does it in spades and more. It’s a movie student’s wet dream. The same could be said for those who debate or study philosophy. Tina and I have had some great long discussions on the back of this film.
Could this sort of thing ever be sanctioned in real life? What sort of government could enact it? What does it say about us, as a people, that we could allow something like this to pass? Would we ever take part on such a night? Would we be non-participants but Purge voyeurs, as some of the characters in this film are? How would trust be affected post-Purge? These are just some of the questions that linger when the final credits roll.