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  Purge, The Oh What A Night
Year: 2013
Director: James DeMonaco
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield, Tony Oller, Arija Bareikis, Tom Yi, Chris Mulkey, Tisha French, Dana Bunch
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 2022 and a solution to America's social problems has finally been found: it's called The Purge. With unemployment at 1% and crime down to negligible figures, what is the nation's secret? It is something businessman James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) has made his fortune with, thanks to his company which sells home security systems, and those are only needed on one night of the year. That is The Purge, when for a few hours of darkness all crime is allowed, and save for a few government and military officials everyone is fair game. With the population offered the chance to behave as badly as they please for the evening, all the other days are peaceful.

This introduced a science fiction concept to what looked to have been inspired by a fondness for the siege part of Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, and really did very well at the box office for a low to medium budget horror movie, but not everyone was satisfied with what they saw. Although the premise brought the paying customers in to check out what writer and director James DeMonaco had concoted, many of them were quite happy to shoot the whole thing down in flames immediately afterwards as utterly unbelievable, ignoring the fact this was set in an invented dystopian future, or at least one for a sole night, and therefore should be judged on those terms.

Obviously if you had the opportunity to murder whoever you wanted with no consequences you would not jump at the chance and set about bumping off the person who most pissed you off, or you wouldn't unless you were some kind of maladjusted menace to society at any rate, in which case you would probably not be waiting for someone's permission to give in to your worst impulses. But you had to go with the notion that once the population had gotten used to the idea of permitted violence, there would be those who embraced it and make Purge Night a misery for the rest of us, or the rest of those in the United States, at least, where the horror stories of individuals attacking their countrymen and women were a daily event.

A certain paranoia had to be courted then, although some criticisers had a point when they complained the characters were too rich to be appropriate for such a storyline, and had DeMonaco concentrated on those in a poorer neighbourhood his pretensions to a social commentary would have more traction. As it was, there was really only one character who fitted that bill, and he didn't even have a name, he was simply "Bloody Stranger" (Edwin Hodge) who the Sandins warily take in when son Charlie (Max Burkholder) takes pity on him as he runs panicking through the gated community. Quite how he arrived there is never truly explained, but we have to assume the rich kids with weapons looking for a Most Dangerous Game recreation caught him in order to assert their social domination.

Which they do by laying siege to the Sandins' mansion, their leader (Rhys Wakefield, by far the most charismatic performer in the movie) smoothly demanding the stranger be released to them. Do James and his wife Mary (Lena Headey) give in to their consciences and provide shelter, or do they throw their visitor to the wolves? If there was one thing The Purge lacked, it wasn't moral dilemmas no matter how forced they were, it was a sense of the wider world going to pot for one night, as we never see much of the mayhem outside the relatively small location the plot concentrates on, but they only had so much cash at their disposal and you could argue keeping it claustrophobic worked in its favour. Still, there were illogicalities where you wondered if anyone had thought this through - would the unpopular with the parents boyfriend really win over his girlfriend (Adelaide Kane) by shooting her father?! - though that was the nature of the beast, most violence is not considered with a plan for the consequences. Yes, The Purge was farfetched, but diverting for all that. Music by Nathan Whitehead.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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