This unfortunately is one of those films where the trailer hypes you up for something special and when you get there the actual product is not as good as you were led to believe. This pains me because I bought The Purge expecting something fantastic only to realize when I got there that I had gotten my hopes up for no reason.
The plot of the story is this: In the near future, once a year the titular Purge is initiated and for twelve hours all crime is made legal with no police or medical services permitted. On one particular night the Sandins are waiting in their house when a stranger is heard begging for help and their son lets him inside. The rest of the film follows the Sandins as they try to fend off a violent gang until The Purge is over. The set-up is great and it feels like the story is all there, but there’s a sense that it wasn’t fully developed and more could have been done with it. Also the final villains get little characterization or screen presence which can be chalked up to the film being far too short and requiring at least an extra thirty minutes.
To be perfectly honest with you, given the Home Invasion/Slasher premise of the film there was never really going to be anything beyond a slight overuse of blood in the whole thing. There is no noticeable CGI and the blood looks realistic enough, but apart from that there really isn’t much to talk about. It appears that the true horror comes through the mostly solid atmosphere that dominates the dark house especially once the film nears its climax. The real problem here is that normally this where I talk about the special effects and because there is virtually nothing notable in this film there isn’t much to discuss. When people ask you about the special effects just tell him it was standard slasher fare.
How does the acting fair up in all of this? Well on a positive note the acting is probably one of the film’s more forgivable aspects. Lena Headey, known for playing Sarah Connor in the recommended Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series has the role of main heroine Mary Sandin and it’s very easy to say that she is one of the best things about the film. The male lead, James Sandin, is portrayed by Ethan Hawke and I must give him credit as an actor because him a Lena Headey make a decent screen couple even if this isn’t a romance. For their age I must say that Adelaide Kane and Max Burkholder do a substantially good job as the children of the main heroes. Now I won’t spoil things by talking about the last villains that come in at the end, but I will say that Rhys Wakefield pulls off his role near perfectly and he is easily the film’s most entertaining villain as he appears to channel Heath Ledger’s Joker in a couple of his scenes.
So all in all is there anything truly good about this? Yes and like every film there are bad things too. The story is fun, but it feels narrow and hamstrung by the films short run time and underdeveloped villains. If you go in expecting something great you’ll be disappointed, but if you can forgive its shortcomings The Purge is an acceptable if dull horror film.