Photo source: collider.com
Friday night, everyone gathered to watch to the release of “The Purge”.
This heart-pounding thriller starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey has your mind racing and morals questioned throughout the entire film. However, there are some things I personally feel could have drastically made the film better.
First, let me give you a little summary of the film. It starts with about 30 seconds of random surveillance camera footage from previous Purges. The next scene shows James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) driving a car in a suit that implies wealth. The phone call was about James receiving the number one sales spot at his company, which he is excited about.
Following that is a brief set up of James’s gated community and everyone getting ready or not getting ready for the annual ‘Purge’. Those who support the purge buy blue flowers and put them in their front yard on the day of the purge. James’s wife Mary (Lena Headey) is first shown putting the flowers in the front yard followed by a very brief interaction with one of her neighbors. A blonde stepford-like wife that asks Mary about her purge plans while explaining she won’t be having her annual purge house party. While this is going on we are shown minor scenes of the 15-year-old daughter, Zoey, fooling around with her boyfriend, which her father says she isn’t allowed to date and the younger brother, Charlie, playing with his high-tech gadgets that he made himself.
Once Mr. Sandin arrives home, they have dinner, exchange daily stories and then report to the living room to get ready for the lockdown. Being as though the security system in the home is the one that Mr. Sandin invented himself, he is excited to start it up and then have a peaceful night of movies and snacks with his family. Upon hearing her father’s reaction about her boyfriend, Zoey decides to throw a typical 15-year-old girl fit and spend the 12 hours in her room alone. When she is in her room her boyfriend pops out of nowhere surprising her. Mr. Sandin leaves the room to go change out of his professional clothes and Mrs. Sandin follows as they discuss their daughter’s boyfriend. Charlie remains in the room fascinated by the security system, watching the surveillance cameras set up outside.
After about 15 mins, Charlie, sees a man clearly injured and dirty making his way down their street screaming for help. Once the man gets close enough to their house Charlie feels for the man and shuts down the security system allowing the man to get in. As soon as the system unlocks, both Mr. and Mrs. Sandin run back to the room to lock the system back up in a panic and find that Charlie has let a strange man in the house. Both the man and Mr. Sandin point guns at each other, classically circle each other debating what to do next. Zoey’s boyfriend, determined to change Mr. Sandin’s mind about him leaves her room to go “reason” with him, but in fact opens fire at Mr. Sandin to which he fires back at the boyfriend as a reaction. The boyfriend dies as Zoey tries to care for him. In the chaotic cross fire, the strange man disappeared somewhere in the house and Mr. Sandin begins freaking out thinking he may have shot his daughter.
Quickly assessing the situation, both James and Mary talk about their next room because everything they planned has gone awry. There is still a man in the house, a dead boyfriend, and they can’t find their daughter. In the middle of a panic attack, Charlie mentions to his parents that there is a group of people at the door. All three go to the living room with the security system to look at the surveillance cameras. The leader of the group very creepily talks to Mr. Sandin through the camera stating that they have one hour to give up the “homeless swine” or they are coming in and killing his whole family.
Mr. Sandin is then determined to find the man and get him out before they come in. The Sandin’s are then forced to decide whether or not to give the guy up. With a protective nature fueling his actions, Mr. Sandin tries to convince the rest of his family that the right thing to do is give him up. However, his morals are questioned by his wife and son, which makes him change his mind and decide to fight the group the group of people.
Throughout a series of fights Mr. Sandin dies and the rest of the family is taken hostage by their neighbors who are the ones behind the whole stunt. Why? Because they are jealous of Mr. Sandin’s professional success and wealth. In the neighbor’s attempt to kill them off the strange man comes out from hiding and kills some of the neighbors, saving the Sandin family. That is pretty much how the ending goes.
Walking into this movie with zero expectations taking it for what it’s worth, it’s a good movie. Looking further into the structure and ideology behind the film, there are a few complications I had.
The history of the ‘Purge’ was not completely explained nor given much evolution to the day we see at the start of the movie. There should be more of a backstory on the purge and how people in 2022 feel and how they are affected by it. Instead, we are just thrown into a normal day with everyone’s thoughts and feelings set in stone. The fact that the film chose one family and their experience to zone in on is perfectly fine, but then the dynamic of the family and their relationships should have gone more in depth for the audience to connect with their situation, and in turn make decisions with them as the film progresses.
When the leader of the cultish group was speaking with Mr. Sandin through the camera, he mentioned that Mr. Sandin was depriving them of their right to purge and to cleanse their soul and society of the “homeless swine” that is roaming the streets. This puts almost a Nazi-esque ideology on the purpose of the ‘purge’. It had become 12 hours of filtering out all the poor and those non-contributing members of society. I really appreciated the fact that we weren’t told anything about the strange homeless man, not even his name, because we were then forced to make purely instinctual decisions about him without any sort of emotions clouding our judgment. I like that we, the audience, were questioning ourselves as do what we would do with him. You were on the fence about him the entire movie, but when he ends up saving them in the end it really makes you think about your previous decisions throughout the movie, because most everyone upon looking at him would have thrown him out.
The role of the daughter confused me a lot and actually made me feel that her role could’ve been taken out of the story without any consequences. She randomly came in and out of the entire movie. Both of the parents worried about her whereabouts for a few seconds at a time and then forgot about her the next. Her role played no importance. There was even a scene where she is hiding under her bed and the leader of the cultish group sees a picture of her and says to another group member “I’m looking for the young lady Sandin. She is ravishing. Save her for me.” Implying a future rape scene or something along those lines, but they never actually encounter each other until she appears out of nowhere later and shoots him in the chest.
Having the neighbors lead the killing spree in the end was a great idea, if they had elaborated the relationship between them and the Sandins. The irony of the extremely rich preying on the slightly richer holds a deeper meaning in itself.
Being as though this is a book, most of what I mentioned is probably elaborated and well thought out in writing, however director James DeMarco’s choice to keep the film at only 85 mins and not go into detail, I feel, lowered the value of the film.