Low Expectations And Great Fun.

THE PURGE (2013)
Image from horrorcultfilms.co.uk.
I've heard this movie get a bad rap by a couple reviews, yet I was pulled along to see it because 1) the lady wanted a horror flick and 2) Lena Headey. Enough said. Here's what I assumed it would be: a mildly updated version of Panic Room (2002). I figured it would be just another they're-stuck-in-the-house-and-sort-of-scary-shit-happens movie. The kind of movie where they say things like "this will be the scariest movie of the summer" and then you watch them play with shadows for an hour and a half. Needless to say, I did not go in with high expectation. 

And then...well, hell. It looks like I'm rooting for the underdog all year (I kid you not; a positive review of After Earth is imminent). 

The thing is, I liked this one. It was fun. It was exactly what it needed to be. And it exceeded expectations (keeping in mind that my expectation was that it was going to be a poorly written should've-been-straight-to-DVD B-horror flick). Here's the thing: the concept is great. Pure genius. It's the kind of thing I wish I'd come up with; after all, it's not really a stretch of the imagination with all the IRL violence that's been going on lately (yeah, I just used acronyms, what up?). The concept of a Purge one day a year in which Americas are able to unleash their inner rage and violent tendencies is very relevant right now. You can either chose to hole up inside or join the violence and chaos outside and in the morning, all sins are forgiven. At the end of the day, it's a solid premise. 

Image from spinoff.comicbookresources.com.
Now, with this premise, the writers had two options. On one hand they could've created an all-out science fiction flick that went deep into the world and the mindset these people live in. A sort of dystopian film that dealt with the heavy moral implications of a night of violence. On the other hand, they could make a relatively light-hearted horror film that grazed on these issues but, at the end of the day, was just looking for a couple good screams. They chose the path of least resistance. 

As a science-fiction junkie, I say this without any judgement or prejudice. If you want to make a campy horror film, make a campy horror film. They're easy to digest and usually pretty easy sells at the box office. The Purge, however, was a campy horror film on the surface with a super clever premise underneath. 

So could they really pull it off? Well, yeah. I think they did. Ultimately, the movie was a hell of a lot more successful at delivering on its promise than I thought it would be. Did it have issues? It sure as hell did. Let me get them out of my system right now:
  1. Why was their house so frustratingly enormous?
  2. So if there's a homeless, possibly insane stranger running around their house, are the parents really going to let their daughter go and throw a bitch fit?
  3. Why does everyone partaking in The Purge talk like an evil doll brought to life?
  4. Why isn't Mrs. Terminator killing more bitches?
  5. Did we really need that terrible in-car exposition with the secretary going, "You're number one!"
Look on the bright side, at least they're not bunnies.
...You get the point. There were a couple bad eggs, a couple spots that could have been cleared up with another run through of the script. But overall...I was surprised by how not-stupid the script was. They delivered on a lot of the moral implications of The Purge, playing through a couple great character driven dilemmas. The reintroduction of the boyfriend at the moment of The Purge was the first moment when I realized that this movie--surprise, surprise--might actually know what it's doing. The boyfriend was great, the homeless man was great (and the dog tags were an excellent surprise), and, most of all, the husbands arc (is he protecting or is he Purging?) was ultimately satisfying. Yes, a lot of it was predictable, but that's the campy horror movie aspect. It still had plenty twists and turns I did not see coming, and those I did see coming still felt satisfying.

At the end of the day, while it was maybe not movie of the year and certainly won't be winning any Oscars anytime soon, it was a clever concept and a smart script. The actors played their parts nicely; hell, even the children engaged my interest instead of irritating me (and by children I mean the little boy). Ethan Hawke was great, and that's coming from someone who generally doesn't get what the big deal is with Ethan Hawke. I loved Lena Headey--but hell, I always love Lena Headey (especially during her final scenes of the movie). And "Polite Stranger," AKA: batshit crazy Rhys Wakefield was fantastic; exactly the kind of overacted, yet unrestrained creepinesses the role needed. 

Yep. I even liked the kid.
Ultimately, the movie felt a little like a Funny Games that didn't take itself so seriously and threw in a splash of violence and humor just to keep the energy going. As someone who can solidly appreciate a simply enjoyable movie with a killer concept, I'd recommend this one over the "oh, god, something is movie in the blankets again" mindless horror flick any day of the week. 


  1. My problem with it - keeping in mind I haven't seen it - is they set up a great premise, but then turn the movie into another home invasion flick - but based on your review I will check it out on my bigass TV in the safety of my own home in a few months.

    1. Those were my thoughts exactly going into it...which I think is why I ultimately enjoyed it. Granted...I don't think it was MUCH more than a home invasion flick...but enough more that it surprised me. Still...those were pretty much my thoughts verbatim when I saw the trailer. It's worth a rental, I'll give it that much.

  2. See I LOVED The Strangers, it completely creeped me out so I think I might be up for this one. It sounds like a good time. The only problem I had with Strangers was how in the fuck did they keep getting in the house? But, I suspended disbelief after a while and went with it. I loved Ethan Hawke's previous horror flick Sinister.

    1. I have yet to see the Strangers, so you have a leg up on my there. I think you'll enjoy this one! If you take it for what it is, it's good fun (and, at times, even pleasantly surprising. Keep an eye out for Ethan Hawke's character arc, I was not expecting that).

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