Title: The Purge
HTS Overall Score:80.5
The year is 2022 and Americans are enjoying an unprecedented atmosphere of national stability. Unemployment rates are ridiculously low, crime isn’t an issue, and the masses are just smitten with the conditions. The cause is a law set-up by what appears to be a newly transformed government called “The New Founding Fathers.” The law dictates that one night a year the Police, Fire Department, and Emergency Services shutter their doors and lawlessness becomes the norm. Gone are the legal and social blockades to violence – every American is given a free ticket to murder. Yes, you read that correctly: killing is a-ok. The rich and wealthy have the means to protect themselves, so drug addicts, criminals, the homeless, and the poor become the primary targets for a nation of blood thirsty killers. Aside from cleansing the streets of low life punks, this “Purge” day is meant to satisfy what behavioral scientists claim is a human need to be violent and aggressive. Just one night of killing a year is enough to appease the innate murderous yearnings of humans: kill a little and soul-cleansed happiness follows.
The Purge is a huge event. It has spawned new industries and traditions...even television entertainment. Think of it as a national holiday; the birth of a new Thanksgiving Day.
Ethan Hawke plays the role of Mr. James Sandin, presented as a clean-cut Dudley-do-right sales rep for a company that installs home protection systems designed specifically to provide safety during the Purge. Sandin, whose home is a mansion plopped down in an exceedingly wealthy neighborhood, lives with his wife (Lean Headey), introverted son Charlie (Max Burkholder), and rebelling teen daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane). As the film begins, the family is making final preparations for lockdown in their lavish home. They have a fancy dinner, a contentious family chit-chat, and then perform the ceremony of securing their house with automated window and door shields.
As the night progresses, their plan for safety is completely derailed when socially conscious Charlie sees a homeless man pleading for help on the home’s video system. Charlie disarms the house and lets the man in. That move draws the attention of a mob of frolicking gun toting prep-school hooligans that have been chasing the homeless man for sport. They don’t like the fact that he’s been granted safety and issue an ultimatum: cough him up or they will “release the beast” and kill the entire family. Thus begins a total home invasion slaughter event at the Sandin residence. It’s an ax-wielding gun-slinging stalk-fest that turns into a blood bath of epic proportions.
Director James DeMonaco’s attempt to make the film a social commentary on guns fails miserably (truthfully, it’s hard to identify the theme amongst the killings). Even Hawke jokingly admits during an interview that he doesn’t quite know what was “going on” in DeMonaco’s head when wrote the script. While morality is injected into the film at key moments, violence primarily reigns supreme and the film really becomes a series of scenes designed to build tension and pop sudden scares. There are loads of riveting moments, many of which end-up being anything but predictable and death and violence are almost assured. There are also layers of spooky imagery (such as the masks and bizarre physical movements of the prep-school hooligans) and loads of gore.
The film sets-up well with an interesting premise and its unpredictability has a certain charm, but that doesn’t take long to wear off. Unfortunately the extreme violence just feels in appropriate. It’s entertainment by death, with evil characters that seem all to happy to execute their sinister violence. It’s a game to them and in this day and age of mass shootings, it hits just a bit too close to home to be called quality entertainment. DeMonaco can imply that the film is an attempt to subvert societal acceptance of guns and killing, but it’s a tough line to believe.
R for strong disturbing violence and some language.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/TP3.jpg[/img]The Purge is deliciously easy on the eyes. Universal Studios delivers a 2.40:1 MPEG-4 AVC transfer that is well above average with an extremely sharp image. High definition is on full display packed with the tiniest of details visible on most objects. The film has two distinct hues. Well lit scenes are bathed with a tan push that works rather well. Dark and poorly lit indoor scenes are presented with slick silvery-grey overtones. Despite these hues, the majority of colors in the film are excellent, including skin tones which remain natural throughout. Blacks are thick and inky, giving way to loads of shadow detail. Crush, which would devastate a dark film like The Purge, isn’t evident. Aside from point-of-view camera shots taken from a roving robot, there are only a few instances where noise is evident in darker scenes.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//TP4.jpg[/img]The Purge’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is fantastic and a true bright spot of the release. The film begins by leaning heavily on the front soundstage. Dialog is immediately established as warm and deep and remains intelligible for the duration of the film. Sound movement and directionality across the front stage is also excellent, with small details (like crickets chirping) making appearances out of specific channels to a very pleasing effect. Nathan Whitehead’s (known for additional work on Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Battleship) original score is crisp and expansive, occasionally making its way to the rear channels. Of course being a horror movie, there are loads of sounds throughout the story to inject a startle response, all of which snap with sharp clarity. As the movie progresses and the action begins, the rear channels come to life to an absolutely delightful effect. My theater room began to sound like it had metal walls being pounded mercilessly from all directions! Rattles, bangs, whispers, and other sounds all poured into the room from all directions. Bass-heads unite! Low Frequency Effects are hot and heavy throughout The Purge. Deep and dark rumbles hit hard with nasty authority and frequently build to crescendo to match the tension on the screen.
While not as bombastic as a mega-Hollywood blockbuster, The Purge's audio is simply fantastic.
• Redemption: Behind the Scenes Featurette
The Purge is a tough film to recommend. I’m a fan of horror movies and am usually immune to gore, but this film takes it just a bit too far. Long stretches of violent hunts led by the giddy prep-school gang are sadistic and just feel inappropriate. While they do setup some interesting moments where the characters are forced to make moral decisions, the overall wave of violence and hints at deeply rooted murderous ambitions dominate the tone to an unfortunate degree. The audio and video on the release are excellent, with the dynamic and thunderous audio presentation being the star of the show. The release’s one “extra” is lame – sorry, Universal...just keepin’ it real – and will surely disappoint any fan of the movie.
Put The Purge in your queue if you absolutely love violent horror films. It has a few moments that will probably make it worth your while. Otherwise, this is a film that nearly everyone else is best off avoiding.
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder
Directed by: James DeMonaco
Written by: James DeMonaco
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Spanish 5.1
Studio: Universal Studios
Runtime: 86 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 8, 2013
Buy The Purge Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: A watch for fans of violence, otherwise pass