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The Purge: Horror That Doesn’t Annoy

July 3, 2013

The Purge movie poster

Most horror films annoy me. They start off strong, show too much and end on incredibly vague notes. Very rarely do they tell insular stories and more often than not are sequels, prequels, reboots or remakes. However, The Purge does something neat. It tells an original story on a tiny budget and didn’t annoy me.

Producer Jason Blum has been responsible for some massive indie hits like Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister and now The Purge. What started as micro budget film making has exploded into a billion dollar series of films with more sequels on the way. Also, Blum, Hawke and director Jason DeMonaco have all been working together on various projects for over a decade and have figured out how to make films for cheap without insulting the audience. Hawke adds the credibility, DeMonaco adds the writing background and Blum gets them the money. So far the two films Hawke and Blum have worked on have made $150 million worldwide on $6 million dollar budgets.

Here is the formula. Interesting concepts + cool idea + photo bombing villain + tiny budget = a boat load of money, sequel ideas and more money to tell cheap horror films. It is smart, surprisingly easy and in tune with what horror fans want. The only drawback is that these ideas will eventually be strip mined much like the Paranormal Activity and Saw series that become parodies of themselves. I do have hope for the Insidious series and wasn’t much of a fan of Sinister so I won’t mind that Bughuul the eater of children is being exploited. 

The Purge tells story of a night in 2022 where all crime is legal. Once a year for 12 hours anything goes and it has a created a society where unemployment is wiped out and crime is at an all time low. The night allows for all the anger, frustration and annoyance to be non-existant. The problem is that all of the superficial problems are gone but there is anger boiling underneath the surface waiting to spew out. If you knew you could kill somebody you didn’t like and get away with it I bet a god complex would be created and those able to protect themselves would have a feeling of entitlement. You would not want to annoy anybody in fear of death.

What I appreciated most about this film were the spoiled purgers. They are a community of young killers who feel entitled, emboldened and murderous. They are used to getting their way and will stop at nothing to kill whomever they want. In the film they don’t sense fear because they think they are immortal. They are not Highlanders or Wolverine but nobody has ever told them “no.” Actually, if somebody told them “no” they would most likely kill them. So, it is believable that these entitled punks attack the house and play the role of psycho killers. The Purge may seem like a superficial blessing but instead it  has created a society hell bent on doing what it wants.

The Purge killers

The Purge is smart but not deep. You know what will come into play later, some people will make later appearances and any trace of subtlety is erased by the end. However, from beginning to end I never felt burnt out or annoyed. The movie moves at a brisk pace (85 minutes) and uses it’s surrounding to full effect. The film is not overly bloody, the cast gives solid performances and the action was realistic. When walking out of the theater I felt the need to digest the bigger plot points and co-writer John and I had a really good discussion about the film (which he likes). After most horror films I am annoyed and want to watch something like Community or New Girl to separate myself from the grossness.  The most unrealistic aspect of the film was believing  Lena Headey as a domesticated housewife after watching 300, Dredd and Game of Thrones. I’ve seen her act tough too many times to believe she could be helpless.  I also found the school girl fetish outfit of the 15-16 year old daughter played by Adelaide Kane (who is actually 23) a bit disconcerting (did she have nothing to change into?).

I hope to see more films like this in the future. Films that rely on ideas over budget. It is proof that solid marketing, an original idea and good actors can make a lot of money while surrounded by big summer blockbusters. The Purge gives hope for new horror and will gives Blum and company plenty of more money to continue their ascent up the horror hill of greatness. 

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