On June 7, 2013, The Purge made its theatrical debut and the movie was instantly a smash hit by opening with nearly $35 million in its first weekend. The plot revolved around a 12-hour period in which all criminal activity, including murder, was legal. The first film followed James Sandin and his family trying to survive the horrific night after their son let in an outside stranger into their home.
The film would go on to make nearly $100 million worldwide, based on a production budget of $3 million dollars. Since then, the franchise has seen five movies in total and a brief television series on the USA Network. The most recent film was The Forever Purge, which changes up the location and the premise a bit. Of course, there’s still one night of the year where people are allowed to “cleanse” themselves; however, the country spins out of control once the annual purge commences.
Not surprisingly, the film only made $12,551,220 million in its opening weekend and ultimately went on to make nearly $74 million worldwide, the lowest return of the franchise thus far. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic had something to with the weak box office; however, horror has been hot since theaters started opening up; The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It amassed a worldwide gross of $200 million while sharing a day-to-day release with HBO Max. A Quiet Place Place Part II earned nearly $300 million worldwide. Given the fact that The Purge has been in both television and movies for nearly a decade, is it time to put an end to this futuristic horror saga?
Here’s the thing, there’s just not that much flexibility when it comes to the paper-thin premise. The first film was a home invasion thriller in the midst of the purge, which was a solid first entry. However, once the franchise went to the outside world, all the fresh ideas stopped. What’s good about this franchise is that there’s always a solid message in these films. The early movies tackled the poor vs. rich dynamic. The recent film dived into immigration politics. The television series dived into a series of topics focusing on numerous characters of different backgrounds. Granted, the message with The Purge franchise is too on the nose and when it comes time for the violent action, it often becomes muddled and lost.
The crazy purge violence is its bread-and-butter though. However, there are only so many inventive ways that people can be killed off in creepy masks. At this point, The Purge franchise is treading water; With the film having a set formula that ultimately delves into a bunch of people slaughtering each other. It’s hard for the franchise to actually create new and fresh stories when the premise is paper-thin. It’s like The Hangover series. The premise was originally meant for one movie; however, with the raunchy comedy doing so well at the box office then it ended up getting three. The sequel was a retread of the first film but in Thailand and Part III failed to successfully deviate the series in a new and fun direction.
The Purge franchise doesn’t necessarily need to have any political messages attached to it. In fact, if The Purge dropped that aspect and made this franchise an over-the-top gore fest then that could actually bring some fun and originality back to these movies. However, as it stands, The Purge films have lost their creative luster. Nearly every angle within The Purge universe has been explored. If James DeMonaco dropped the violent brawl-for-them all aspect he’ll likely be able to get more mileage out of the premise; however, his fanbase won’t be too thrilled at the changes.
At the end of the day, people care about the kills. Just like the Saw franchise. But as previously stated, there are only so many clever kills you can pull off in this type of film. Given that this is James DeMonaco’s baby, it’s possible that he can change up the formula. Just like Halloween was able to tweak their formula into something fresh and exciting. If DeMonaco can’t, then it’s time to wrap up this cash cow and work on something new. Of course, I’m not banking off this lucrative franchise, and as long as the Purge films continue to make bank then I highly doubt DeMonaco and his executives care about some random writer’s opinion.