2013, Movies

The Purge (2013, James DeMonaco)

The opening text this movie displays, explaining what ‘the purge’ is, is basically the pitch meeting for this movie. The filmmaker likely walked into an office, said those exact words, mentioned some actors for the key roles, and got this green-lit. This film is a perfect symbol of what is wrong with “high concept” films that are just a pitch:

  • it’s underwritten, in so many ways – it’s not actually 85 minutes, folks, that includes the credits,
  • it resorts to cliches once the premise is established,
  • it is not entertaining,
  • it’s not smart
  • it’s just a steaming pile of shit that somehow swallowed a couple of pretty good actors.

One example of how the writer utterly failed to make his concept believable: the film is set in 2022 but the purge has been “a tradition” for some time. I guess we’re supposed to believe that such a law is right around the corner (as in, it should be in place already…). Why not set the film further in the future so that such a crazy law seems maybe a little more believable?

Anyway, this movie is not scary and I chuckled maybe twice. (The best part of the movie is either Ethan Hawke getting beaten with a pool cue or Lena Heady breaking someone’s nose.)

Once the purge begins, it follows all the standard gang-of-masked-strangers-at-our-door conventions – with some deviations which might count as spoilers so I will not mention them – and ends in nearly record time – it looked like 79 minutes including the opening credits. In the meantime, there are numerous shots which can’t really be deciphered because they were seemingly lit naturally and then the film inexplicably brightens – it would be explicable if they were camping – as if the filmmakers realized a completely dark “horror” movie might not work.

Characters behave absurdly – they all go ape-shit on the purge night as if madness is a switch you throw – and literally the only normal people in the film are the family and the man they “save.” It’s this simplistic view of the world that makes everyone unrelatable and the viewer just wants everyone to die already. (And that takes time, despite how unbelievably short this movie is.)

A piece of shit elevated somewhat by the presence of good, name Hollywood actors doing good work for no apparent reason.


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