The Purge (d. James DeMonaco USA/France 2013)

The Purge (d. James DeMonaco USA/France 2013)

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews.


13 years ago Battle Royale (d. Kinji Fukasaku Japan 2000) amazed fans, and although a remake was attempted we instead got The Hunger Games (d. Gary Ross USA 2012). Both of these films have reached great success, and similar to The Purge both open with an alternate realty/future, in which the only noticeable difference is a concept that encourages mass homicide. Interestingly with The Purge it’s beginning to seem as if a new genre is emerging. Far from being films about death, these are films about survival. These films, otherwise exist somewhere between action and horror. Contrasting moments of sheer desperation with tense anticipation. It’ll be interesting to see if this is a genre that takes hold. But let’s focus on The Purge. 


The film really focuses on the set up. Many references are made to why this rule is in place and even some philosophical discussion is offered as to its moral implications. The emphasis is placed upon this idea of ‘for America’. This functions both as a means to set up the premise of the film and to offer a critique of some American values (particularly ideas of the Social Capital, Nuclear Family and Class System). When taken to the extreme would it be right for some of us to live off the weak? Extinguishing our hate and anger in a night of violence to eradicate the ‘less-desirables’. There is an exploration of the idea of community. A community, represented by the rich living. It is the rich living, that is literally, pitted up against the homeless and those on the other end of the extreme. Sometimes, this theme seems to point to an America of the past. Particularly, in the first half of the film, where the sadistic and vengeful youth conflict with a homeless man. The former people all being white, whilst the latter being black. An echo of the cruelty of American history. Is this where America is headed?


Whilst this exploration is interesting, themes can not save a film alone. There is a group of youths who attack, clad in masks, who in their dancing and laughing offer exciting ‘horror characters’ to the film. There are moments of quite successful horror. The action moments are rather mild in comparison and sit awkwardly between extravagance and simplicity. The effects are passable and do add to the atmosphere. In a film that stresses its concept so much, the narrative is important. Initial tensions between the father and the rest of his family are not properly explored. The daughters boyfriend offering a little something, that is left unfulfilled. The exploration of the community wants us to care more for the unfortunate strangers, over the fortunate neighbours. However, the critique of community isn’t properly explored. Whilst, it’s offered that love thy neighbour is a mask of sanity, rather than a truism. The arguments on this theme are never properly explored.


This was an interesting film. Though, far from being fully realised, the themes and the entertainment are underdeveloped. I would say the more promising aspect of this film, is how it relates to other films in developing a genre. The critique it offers on American values and the community spirit, although promising, leaves much left to be desired. Whilst characters and moments in the film fail to be all that they could be. The Purge leaves me thinking less about the film and more about what’s next. It didn’t have an impact.


Further Reading

The Purge Site

Interview with the Director

Some of the American Social Values

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