[BD Review] ‘The Purge’ Is Insanely Unfocused, Diluted and Generic

The opening title sequence for The Purge promises a much larger scope than what eventually hits the screen. We see spy cam shots from across the “new” Nation as chaos erupts; there’s a rash of beatings, gunfights, and much more shots of extreme violence. The conceit is clear, and the visuals promise to deliver one hell of a night of brutality. Instead, The Purge could actually be referring to how writer/director James DeMonaco squeezed such an enormous idea into a single, lackluster location.

This high concept thriller/home invasion slasher takes us to 2022 where the new America, apparently re-molded after an economic meltdown, is built upon the principles of “The Purge.” The idea is that, once a year, for 12 hours, violence and murder are legal. The thought is that this “Purge” allows the Nation to relieve themselves of these natural instincts of violence and aggression. But what the film proposes is that it’s more about population control and ridding the country of people who don’t contribute to society* (i.e. the poor and homeless).

With that we meet the Sandin family, who is now the wealthiest family in town thanks to James Sandin’s (Ethan Hawke) home security business. He protects his wife, son and daughter with the same home security system he exploits to rich families in the neighborhood. Only his technology sucks… and it’s unclear if that’s his or the writer’s fault, although I suspect it’s the latter. This fantasy world looks and feels more like a 2012 Blumhouse movie than a 2022 high concept thriller. The house is as generic and middle-class as they come, not to mention Sandin’s security system doesn’t include in-house cameras or even a panic room.

And while the ideas presented in The Purge are actually pretty damn cool, the illogical and convenient decisions made by all of the characters are maddening (i.e. from James’ decision to lock down the house one minute before the purge to characters walking aimlessly around the house during an invasion), so much so that you could hear constant sighs of frustration from half the audience.

The Purge becomes a lowbrow game of cat and mouse where nearly every single character is “saved” from behind by another character, who ends up being double-double crossed the same way. The only sequence that remains memorable is a gruesome game room battle between James and the invaders rocking shotguns and axes.

Even Rhys Wakefield’s epic Patrick Bateman-like performance is wasted as he never actually interacts with any of the characters; he’s solely used for intimidation through the Sandin’s front door security camera. And outside of Wakefield, all of his henchmen are faceless (because they’re underdeveloped and wearing masks), which makes it impossible to give a shit when any of them die. Because of this, there are no “jump out of your seat and cheer” moments, which makes the experience feel stale and generic.

What’s so interesting about Purge is that it’s the first co-production between genre powers, Blumhouse and Platinum Dunes. Blum is known for their low budget affairs (Dark Skies and Insidious), while Dunes has had some pretty huge horror projects (Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street to name a few). What Purge ends up being is the generic looking home-confined thriller that Blumhouse keeps recycling mixed with the relentless jump-scares of a Platinum Dunes movie.

In the end, The Purge has a plethora of brilliant ideas that are all underdeveloped. It’s as if DeMonaco didn’t know how to express his own frustrations with our society, which end up on screen like a conspiracy theorist spewing thousands of ideas he’s heard without ever researching or understanding them himself. And with that comes an insanely unfocused, diluted and generic thriller that carries zero impact.

** From an economic standpoint the concept is absolutely ridiculous, as in the real world, the rich get richer off the lesser class paying interest on their loans. Therefore, they’d never allow a society where the poor are killed off.

Official Score

  • Kwonkicker

    A shame it ends up coming off as rather lackluster. I’m still pretty curious about it and will be checking it out once it’s released.

  • DarrelDreadful

    The reviews on this are beginning to sound the same which is a bummer, but that has never stopped me before. I still will be checking this out tomorrow.

  • Aaron Emery

    I’d hate to say that it was terrible, but it was terrible. I didn’t care about any of the characters, I could hardly tell what was going on and to whom it was happening to. Then once the siege finally starts it just ends. That was one of the lamest endings I’ve ever seen. What the hell was the point of this movie?

    • DavidPerry88

      I felt the same way about the ending!

  • shelly84

    Well, I ve been reading some bad reviews about this movie, and well I need to read more negative reviews about movies because i got into the movies not expecting much about this movie and actually I had a good time watching it. I understand that everybody expected more struggle when the bad guys broke into the house, more “drama” and all, I understand that repeating the back shooting the bad guy and saving the good guy sucked and I imagined at least 3 different endings for this flick, all of then more cruel and sad. On the other side the bad guys characterization was pretty cool, most of the acting was pretty decent (damn I already hate teenagers, after this movie I hate them even more) , and the story and tension was well built. Overall the film was pretty entertaining and I believe everybody agrees on that. This whole Idead of “12 hours to get crazy and do all this crazy bad stuff” can become a very cool series of movies franchise(please dont try to make sequels, but different stories with the same theme)

  • shelly84

    “there are no “jump out of your seat and cheer” moments”

    Well in the movie session I was, i saw some of them….

  • DBZEROGRAVITY

    I’m hoping this is one of those “to each his own” movies b/c the premise is one of the best in a least a decade

  • Kwonkicker

    I disagree. This was a clearly focused film. It was slow and predictable at times but it more than makes it by being an otherwise entertaining and engaging thriller. People are expecting something the film isn’t. It’s not a pure horror film even in the broadest use of the genre, but that’s ok because it doesn’t try to be.

  • truchainsaw28

    I’ve heard that a lot of people have felt disappointed by this film. Critics as well as the general public. It had a phenomenal weekend. Costing just 3 million dollars to make and netting almost 38 million. The concept must have hooked people. Because in a cinematic genre age of remakes and sequels the rare original flick with the intriguing concept will net a lot of attention even if people come flocking to it for all the wrong reasons. From what I’ve heard people expected to see something broader concerning the concept, something more action packed and entertaining. What I saw a standard home invasion horror thriller amped up by an unusual twist. Ten years from now in the future a new group is the government and they have authorized all crime legal for twelve hours once a year. Since people are allowed to exorcise all their violent and psychotic tendencies. Crime has dropped substantially as well as poverty and unemployment. Set in 2022 on the day of The Purge a family gets accidentally involved in a “purge hunt” when a young boy lets a wounded victim into their home. As a result a cult of psychotic yuppies targeting him decide to take out their aggression on all of them. If you go in expecting something that’s gonna be action packed you will be disappointed. If you go in expecting something that will take the concept on in a broader scenario in which you can witness the brutality across the country you will be disappointed. And lastly if you go in expecting a movie that’s going to glorify the violence you will be sadly disappointed. The Purge despite what you may think is a small intimate film that explores the morality of it’s concept on a smaller scale to execute a feeling of how everything and everyone is affected individually. It does have broad scope in what it’s trying to communicate but is done in a controlled location so it can build characters that frustrate you while you care for them. It makes no subtleties about exploring the bowels of human nature. those feeling that the concept is unrealistic would be right but than again you probably shouldn’t see this movie. it’s intended as an exercise in taut suspense grounded by a intense observation of the human condition. Furthermore The director smartly orchestrates the situations so that you change the way you feel constantly throughout the film so that you question yourself and those around you. It’s a disturbing film. But it’s also a brilliant one filled with two strong lead performances from Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke much better here than Insidious. That being said some of the scare tactics are a bit too desperate and come across hammy such as the mask where goons montage and some unnecessary skipping. The twist at the end of the film is the most disturbing part and everything culminates in a way that will leave you speechless. The film runs 85 mins and honestly I’m happy it does cause it ratchets up such disturbing intensity I almost couldn’t bear it. It’s a taut, unnerving ride that will echo long after it’s over. 4/5

  • ElizaFearReDrUm

    I was so very disappointed in this movie they made it out to be more than it really was.. i was honestly falling asleep in the movie theater. Until the last 20 Mins.. The mask that the lead crazy ass wore ya that was a lil creep and so was his regular face. But Killing off Ethan Hawke WTF?!!!! the mom at the very end needed to blow dat blonde bitches brains all over the window.But no that would be to much.. ugh not impressed with this movie at all. Compare Sinister to The Purge I think that u maybe able to see that they could had done better!!!

  • walter radunsky

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned about American reviews of movies, books, and plays it’s this: you can’t trust any commentary about anything that in any way addresses the issue of social class. It’s no coincidence that a society as brainwashed as ours produces and watches so many zombie movies. We can identify with the metaphor in these films and, at least on a subconscious level, understand that what has happened in them is what has already happened to us. Nevertheless, like zombies, we cannot help what we do; most of our brains have been eaten by what we’ve been indoctrinated to believe and we must eat the brains of others in return, especially if they are still filled with any questions or critical views concerning social class and poverty. In the case of movie reviews, the vast majority of Americans will not simply bash a film for making a statement about social class, but be so conniving and ignorant of their own mindlessness as to suggest that this statement was the film’s only admirable quality. Many reviews of the “The Purge” serve as perfect examples of such connivance and ignorance. While perhaps no masterpiece, the film is easily far better than most American horror movies, including many which have been given rave reviews. The narrative, for example, is both focused and meaningful. The film examines a family, the father of which has become wealthy and provided abundantly for his wife and children, i.e., has achieved the American dream, by the exploiting the fears of Americans during a time when all crime is permitted for one night each year. But this dream turns into a nightmare during a particular purge in which the son allows a homeless man to take shelter in their home, which is excessively guarded by the same type of security system that the father has profited from. This act of morality incurs the wrath of the family’s upper class neighbors, who not only hunt down those who cannot afford to protect themselves, i.e., the poor, but have grown jealous of the father’s financial success. That which the father created for prosperity and protection suddenly becomes an entrapment and the greatest threat to their well being. These events and characters are not only meaningfully tied together but present a metaphor of society that is just as familiar to Americans as the zombie genre. Unfortunately, however, the familiarity with the society presented in “The Purge” is of a kind that severely aggravates those who both choose and try to convince others to choose to ignore anything that might help to explain why it is that they have turned into zombies.

    • dorfhombre

      Bingo

  • dorfhombre

    Major props for even trying to pull off a horror/thriller with this much social commentary. It wasn’t entirely successful, but damn (SPOILER ALERT—>, though you will probably see this one coming), by the time they decide to fight back instead of casting the “homeless” man out to the dogs, I was very much into the movie. The “twist” ending was also pretty predicable, but it did provide a very satisfying conclusion to this rather short home invasion thriller. I’m also glad they didn’t go full on torture porn/revenge porn here. The movie is better for it. Maybe I’m just a liberal sucker but I enjoyed every minute.

  • KorovaMilkbar

    i thought this movie was terrible, and found myself hoping the whole family would just get “purged”. i saw the ending coming a mile away the moment that crazy neighbor showed her face pushing cookies. and how the hell do you have a big fancy house and security system and NOT have a panic room???