Ethan Hawke is no stranger to the horror genre, in 2009 he starred in the Australian vampire flick Daybreakers, a film which promised so much, and delivered relatively little. Now he teams up with director James DeMonaco in a horror film that promises to be anything but ordinary; The Purge, but can it live up to its exciting trailer?
The Purge plays out like a poor-man’s Hunger Games. In the year 2020, America is prospering, crime is at an all-time low and unemployment is at 1%. The reason? Once a year, for twelve hours, all crime is legal and people across US can commit any atrocities they wish.
Ethan Hawke plays James Sandin, a security salesman who has capitalised on the public’s fear of being ‘purged’ by selling hi-tech safety equipment to the rich to ensure they stay safe. Lena Headey plays his wife Mary and his two children, Charlie and Zoe are played by Max Burkholder and Adelaide Kane respectively. In a moment of madness after the commencement of the annual purge, a ‘target’ (Edwin Hodge) is let into their home causing all hell to break loose.
Borrowing heavily from other ‘home invasion’ horror films such as When a Stranger Calls and The Strangers, The Purge really ‘gets going’ about two-thirds in when an army of killers swoop on Ethan Hawke’s impressive property looking for their ‘target.’ The family have one hour to reply before they all become ‘targets.’
Unfortunately, an exciting and unique premise is completely lost in a film that is riddled with many horror clichés, some of them blatantly obvious, (woman opening fridge door, door closes and harmless child shocks woman), some not so obvious. This is a terrible shame as the idea of all crime being legal is ridiculously exciting, but after about 40 minutes, we are locked in the Sandin’s home as they play cat and mouse with an array of forgettable serial killers and the original story is lost.
Another problem is the acting. Competent is the only word to describe it; Ethan Hawke is good in his role and his stern demeanour which has earned him so many acting jobs in the past is in full force here, but you can’t help feeling he was a budgetary decision rather than being who the producers actually wanted. Lena Headey seems to phone in a rather wooden performance, whilst the two kids do marginally better. By far the stand-out here is Rhys Wakefield, credited only as ‘Polite Stranger’ who is excellent and terrifying as equal measure; his facial expressions are enough to make you wince.
Overall, The Purge is an exciting film that delivers some unique thrills and spills mixed in with the usual horror clichés. Unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver on its unique and exciting starting point and delves into a generic slasher film around 45 minutes in. A stand-out performance from one of the cast isn’t enough to lift the acting above mediocre and the Sandin family are as characters, frightfully dull. It’s definitely worth a watch, but don’t let the trailer fool you; it’s not as unique as you might expect.
The new review system breaks down the film into categories allowing you, as the readers to see just where I have awarded points to the film. It is still in a testing stage, so if there are any categories you think could improve it, please let me know.
Special Effects/Cinematography: 5/10
Costume Design: 6/10
OVERALL: 35/60 – Good, but could be better.