I might have already had low expectations for this horror/thriller called 'The Purge' when I saw Michael Bay's name on it. Fortunately, he was only one of several producers, and that's as long as his role goes. 'The Purge' has a great set up and storyline, but its execution is less than desired and made for a less than average movie. I think director Dames DeMonaco tried too much to give a political and social statement here and drove those nails in our noses too many times, rather than just make a good old fashioned home invasion thriller. Some of the scenes really work, as the characters and genuine suspenseful situation really have you on edge, but with its commentary, the film is really dragged down, leaving you saying, "This could have been better".
I guess in an attempt to scare us, DeMonaco sets this story in the year 2022, only nine years into the future. This doesn't go over well, as it seems the United States has completely gotten rid of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and any other document that our founding fathers came up with. In fact, there are new "founding fathers", and America is under a new peaceful set of rules, which has crime virtually at zero percent. However, one day out of each year for twelve hours, 'The Purge' happens.
This twelve hour event legalizes all forms of crime including murder, rape, genocide, stealing. No police, military, or firefighters will be available during this twelve hour period, as this is a "decompression" time for the citizens of the U.S. to get their anger out. Going back to the year 2022, this doesn't seem plausible for all of these new rules and regulations to be doled out. And nothing is explained either, other than a montage of newscasts that explain our short history with this new system.
So as the film starts out, we meet the Sandin Family consisting of James (Ethan Hawke), a family man who has made a large fortune selling home security systems to people preparing for the yearly Purge. His wife Mary (Lena Headey) attends to their two kids, Zoey (Adelaide Kane), a teenager who loves her boyfriend and their son Charlie (Max Burkholder), who loves technology, robots, and gothic culture. The family is all tucked away in their fortified home as they prepare to spend a cozy twelve hours watching the atrocities of the Purge on their televisions. Much to Zoey's excitement, her boyfriend has snuck into their house before the doors were locked for the Purge, so he can finally score with her.
And so, the raping and killing begins. But the Sandins are thrown off guard when a bloodied homeless man runs to their door screaming for help and to let him in. Nobody lets him enter the house, but the goth kid Charlie has a change of heart as he thinks the Purge is ridiculous and lets in the homeless man. Soon after, a gang of masked people show up at the Sandin house led by a truly sick and sadistic man known as Polite Leader (Rhys Wakefield). Polite Leader informs the Sandin family to release the homeless man so that they can kill him, or that him and his entire gang will break into their house and murder the entire family. Well, the Sandins believe that if they comply, then they will indeed be murderers from now on and choose to keep the homeless man safe, which sends Polite Leader and his gang head first into their luxurious home where brutal death is the only option.
There are a few twists and turns throughout with most of the characters that keep the story flowing, even if some are silly. Hawke does the best with what he's given and turns from a jolly father to a mean killing machine to protect his family. The same goes for Headey, as she would go the extra mile to save her kids. But the true star is Wakefield. He might have given one of the scariest and creepiest performances so far this year. I can't wait to see him play more villains.
The home invasion storyline and seeing the parents protect their kids and family is done well. However, the undertones, and the on-the-nose social and political commentaries are too much and deviate from the actual story and point of the movie. Whether it be jealousy, rich people overpowering poor people, or big government, these issues should have been non-existent in this film. That being said, 'The Purge' made enough money at the box office to warrant a sequel already.
'The Purge' comes with an excellent 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The detail is very good with well defined closeups of the actors' make-up, scars, and wrinkles. The props throughout the house and guns, weapons and axes all looks very defined and sharp. However, when the camera is in the form of a security camera or toy camera, things get a bit fuzzy, but that's how the filmmakers wanted it.
There isn't much natural light or sunlight in the film as most of it takes place in the darkness or inside a house. The colors all look good, but I wouldn't expect too many primary colors to be seen. There are some dark blues, blacks, and grays that fill the screen. When blood is spilled, the red pops nicely. Blacks run deep and inky with skin tones natural and smooth. There is no evidence of any banding, aliasing or edge enhancement. There is a tiny bit of motion blur, but nothing that will distract the viewing audience. This is a great video presentation.
This release comes with a stellar lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and sounds amazing. This is what all horror films should sound like. Dialogue is crystal clear and always easy to understand. It's free of any pops, cracks, or hissing. The directionality of the voices are well balanced and prioritized here. The screams, yells, and whispers are truly haunting.
The sound effects are phenomenal and pour out of the surrounds quite often, startling you and making you jump out of your seat at every turn. The gun shots and stabs are loud and intimidating. The bass even rumbles too, giving the speaker system a decent workout. The score adds to the suspense of the entire film and never drowns out any of the dialogue or sound effects. This is a great horror movie audio mix.
'The Purge' could have been a great home invasion story and movie, however, its undertones and on-the-nose political and social commentaries drive this film right into the dirt. At least the video and audio presentations are top notch, but only one less-than-average extra doesn't make this the strongest release. I'd rent this before purchasing.