The Purge franchise has been around for nearly a decade at this point and the films generally revolve around a central premise; What if all crime – including murder – was legal for 12-hours? The films tend to be a social commentary on the social class, namely the rich vs. the poor. The Purge series aren’t critically darlings, though the films tend to get solid ratings. The first installment that kicked off the entire series came in at an abysmal 39% on rotten tomatoes, and for good reason too. This article will explore the problems that plague The Purge from being a good film.
Here’s the thing, I actually like that the filmmakers decided to keep the first installment inside of the house. Granted, The Purge ultimately becomes a generic invasion thriller; however, there are still fun possibilities given the unique premise. One of the core issues of the first film is the characters, namely the kids and the homeless stranger. Zoey and Charlie are frustrating sources that cause most of the problems throughout the movie. Personally, I don’t have an issue with Charlie helping out the homeless man. It’s generally human nature to want to help out people and it makes Charlie look like a good person for going against the grain by assisting the stranger. Despite the assistance, the homeless stranger oddly becomes wearily of the family that just helped him from being slaughtered like pigs. The actions (or inaction) of the stranger (sorry, he doesn’t have a movie name) ultimately turn Charlie’s decision into a costly and stupid mistake. Granted, we all knew the risks when Charlie opened the door, but the stranger never truly seems grateful that the family is protecting him until the very end. Instead of having the stranger hide for a good portion of the runtime, James DeMeonaco should’ve had him stand and fight alongside James and Mary.
Even then, having him on the frontlines would’ve given the audience a chance to connect with the character to make him likable. Filmmakers tend to make the mistake that audiences will instantly care about a character if they’re immediately in danger. That statement may be true in real life (at least for most people); however, when it comes to movies that logic doesn’t stick. We know that these people aren’t actually dead in real life, so it’s important that filmmakers actually try to make said victim a likable presence before being murdered off. It’s true that we connect with the homeless stranger at first because of the horrific situation; however, those emotions wand over time because we know next to nothing about this nameless man. Going back to the kids, they actively disobey their parents in the midst of a huge crisis. Demeonaco makes a blunder when it comes to Zoey’s character. She’s pissed at her father for killing her boyfriend. Was the father supposed to stand there and take the bullet? It’s clear that James did nothing wrong and her reaction to the situation is unwarranted and often childish. I get that she’s lost someone that she was truly in love with. I also get teenage rebellion. That doesn’t necessarily equate to a compelling story.
The Film Is Nothing More Than A Generic Home Invasion Thriller
While I was fine with The Purge taking place inside of a single home, DeMeonaco doesn’t truly take advantage of his unique premise. As I previously stated above, the 2013 vehicle is a predictable feature. The central premise of all crime being legal for 12-hours feels in the same vein as a character’s cell phone losing service during a horror film, meaning it’s just an explanation for why the police aren’t involved. The serial killers waiting outside feel like unnecessary time filler. We know they’ll get in eventually, so any scenes of the Sandin’s trying to keep them at bay fail to lack any tension. Once the murder-happy psychos enter the building, the film doesn’t take advantage of the big house that could provide some strong tension. It’s kill city at this point and there’s not a murder that’s cool or memorable enough. Home invasion thrillers explore the avenues of why the privacy of your own space being violated is scary; however, it requires a set of unpredictable antagonists. There’s no mystery behind the villain’s motivates as he’s not playing the charming thief type character. Sure he’s polite and offers the Sandin’s a chance to redeem themselves, but there’s never a false sense of security that makes you believe that he’s a decent human being. In fact, the premise of The Purge actually holds the film back a bit. The fun premise requires demands of violence and chaos but the direction here is anything but due to being trapped in one house. It would’ve been more interesting if the Sandin’s were somehow forced to leave their homes and go through the streets of the actual Purge. As it stands, The Purge is a passable time-filler at best, nothing more or less.