America, 2022. Unemployment is at an all time low, crime rates are even lower. Why? Because as part of America’s restructuring, for 12 hours once a year, all crime is legal. Rape, maim, murder, steal – anything is fair game. The theory is that, if everyone is allowed to “purge” for 12 hours, they will get it out of the system and be squeaky clean for the rest of the year. And it’s working. For the other 8,753 hours of the year, people behave. The Purge works, and those who don’t take part in it better damn well support it.
The 7 p.m. Purge time approaches quickly, and the Sandins arm their seemingly impenetrable security system. It only takes a few minutes for things to go very wrong.
Early into The Purge, Charlie is monitoring his home’s many security cameras and spots a black man screaming for his life in the middle of the street. Without much hesitation, Charlie disarms the system and let’s the disheveled, beaten man into his home. Now, while I understand that this is a horror film rooted in a fictional premise (a very interesting fictional premise), this act is my only real problem with the film. First off, why the hell would a 10-year-old kid have access to such an elaborate security system? Especially when that kid spends much of his time questioning the need for The Purge? But a movie like The Purge isn’t meant to be scrutinized so heavily. It only asks that you suspend disbelief for 85 minutes and attempt to enjoy yourself. Fair enough.
With the man now in the house, a group of young, preppy, articulate, charming white kids (not unlike the young, preppy, articulate, charming white kids in Michael Haneke’s similarly themed Funny Games) descend on the Sandin house and kindly ask its patriarch to release the “human scum” they are harboring. No need to explain further, your imagination (or your $12 ticket) can help fill in the rest.
The actual plot of The Purge isn’t nearly as compelling as what the film says about our society. Haneke has noted on several occasions that he made Funny Games as a way to throw our obsession with violence in our faces. His movie is structured in a way that forces the audience to participate, whether they like it or not. The Purge is the same way. In fact, I’d bet most everyone who watched this film spent part of its running time imagining what they would do if The Purge really existed.
The movie itself is simply okay – an above average horror flick, mostly because of its intriguing concept. The wonder of The Purge is its ability to force us to think what we would do. Maybe you’d steal. Maybe you’d kill your boss. Maybe you’d bash your neighbor’s nose with the butt of a shotgun. Maybe you’d do nothing. Either way, you’re thinking about it. B