Off the back of seeing ‘The Hunt’ this week, I decided to go back and watch another film that deals with social commentary, and one I think does it much better.

Certificate: 15

Director: James DeMonaco

Screenwriter: James DeMonaco

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder

Genre: Horror

Runtime: 85 Minutes

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl

Before a barrage of sequels watered down this franchise, there was just ‘The Purge’ and interesting commentary on the economic divide many people struggle with on a daily basis, and done in such a way that the message isn’t hammered down your throat.  Instead it is a recurring theme in the background of a very tense and unnerving horror/thriller.

America in the near future and the country is getting ready for the annual ‘Purge’ one night of the year where, for 12 hours all crime, including murder is legal.  We follow the Sandin family, a well to do family whose father sells security to other wealthy families in order to keep themselves safe from the violence that goes on during the purge.  During the course of the night, his son lets a destressed stranger into the house to protect him, and this sets in motion a violent chain of events that inevitably ends in tragedy.

I loved this first instalment.  I am happy to ignore all subsequent films that derived after it and just treat this one as a one hit wonder.  The atmosphere is so tense and nerve shredding the entire time, even in the beginning when everything seems completely fine.  Later, when the chaos ensures, clever camera work and jumpy shots make for a really anxious and uncomfortable experience, which totally fits with the feel of the film.

Both Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke give amazing performances here.  Ethan Hawke more towards the beginning when he is trying to keep his family together and deal with the crisis and Headey really comes into her own towards the end when she is trying to navigate the absolute chaos that has unfolded in her house.  But other then these two leading performances, the other characters in the story are rather two dimensional.  Rhys Wakefield plays the leader of the gang harassing the family, and he plays his part well, coming across as both incredibly polite and very creepily sinister, but he is really just there to be frighteneing  He has no story, no motive or morals, and whether this is meant to be used to highlight the upper/lower class divide again I am unsure,  but I wish he had a bit more substance.  Both kids in the film were played sufficiently, but again where reduced to mere stereotypes, and lacked any real substance.

A much better social commentary then ‘The Hunt’ which I saw recently and drummed it’s message home way to hard.  And a pretty good horror movie all round with a couple of standout performances. 

The Purge is currently available to view on Nexflix UK