Note: A slightly edited version of this appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.
“The Purge,” directed by James DeMonaco, operates on many levels: dystopian fantasy, home invasion thriller, political allegory, and moral fable. And it’s unbelievably stupid on every one of them.
The year is 2022. The New Founding Fathers have instituted the Purge, a yearly 12-hour period in which all laws, including murder are suspended.
The Purge allows everybody to release their inner psycho and get it out of their system. Of course nobody’s going to develop a taste for it that can’t be confined to once a year.
This is stated to be the reason the economy is booming, there is full employment and low crime. Because allowing murder and vandalism is good for the economy.
James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) sells security systems to his neighbors and does very well for himself. He, his wife Mary (Lena Headey), daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and son Charlie (Max Burkholder) live well and enjoy the finer things in life.
But this year as the Sandins are locking down for the night, they have two uninvited guests.
Zoey’s boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller,) who daddy has forbidden her to see, sneaks in to reason with Daddy – with a gun.
Charlie lets in a homeless black man (Edwin Hodge,) who is wounded and pursued by a gang of rich preppy psychopaths in scary masks. They want to kill him because that’s what rich people secretly want to do to the poor don’t you know.
Their leader (Rhys Wakefield) appeals to James as a fellow ”have” to let them have the have-not scum so they can kill him. Otherwise they are going to break in and kill everybody in the house.
And of course they do break in. Because security expert James has precisely ONE layer of security, steel shutters on the doors and windows.
There are closed circuit TV cameras to see outside, but no floodlights. All the shutters are armed by one switch. There is nothing like a double-door foyer which allows someone to pass through without compromising security. There is no emergency power backup.
They do have guns, but no gun ports to shoot outside. The guns are not standardized calibers: a revolver, an automatic, and a pump-action shotgun with a cool handle that makes it impossible to work the pump quickly. The Sandins appear to have little or no training in combat shooting.
Any damn fool would design layered security, starting at the periphery of the neighborhood in cooperation with the neighbors. Then fortify the houses as redoubts of last resort. Oh, and don’t forget a safe room in case the house is breached.
Once the psychos are in the darkened house, the Sandin family does everything wrong. They separate and can’t seem to lay a simple ambush in the house they are intimately familiar with, against intruders who don’t know the layout at all. Makes for great scary moments though.
Of course they are saved by the homeless guy they were thinking of feeding to the mob, who is evidently a veteran by the dog tags he wears. He’s noble because he tells James to go ahead, give him up and save his children.
There is the horror movie double tap of course. You think the danger is over, but it’s not.
The neighbors turn on them because they resent the wealth the Sandin’s have piled up from selling them security systems.
Me, I think they’re mad at James because the security systems are lousy.
In the end they are undone and at the mercy of the Noble Black Man who says to Mary, “Your call.”
Mary renounces vengeance, the Purge ends and the Noble Black Man walks off into the sunrise.
Hey Lady, those neighbors were going to stab you and your children to death with knives. You turned the tables on them and you think they’re going to forget that next year?
And since there are closets full of clothes their owner has no further use for, could you have offered your savior a new suit? A job for next year’s purge? Asked his name so you could thank him properly? Breakfast?
DeMonaco has stated “The Purge” is his vision of America with the NRA and Tea Party people in power. He is a professed admirer of the Occupy Movement.
The Tea Party demonstrations have been largely middle class, middle aged, short-term and orderly. The Occupy demonstrations have been young, affluent, lengthy and marked by vandalism and assault. The NRA has never advocated a people-hunting season.
DeMonaco says he’s fascinated by “America’s relationship with violence.”
You have relationships with people. You are violent, a victim of violence, or prepared to use violence to avoid becoming a victim.
“The Purge” is plenty scary but shows only DeMonaco’s own sick fascination with violence, of which he knows nothing.