Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Purge (2013)
Starring Ethan Hawke (Assault on Precinct 13), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones).
Written and directed by James DelMonaco (Assault on Precinct 13, The Negotiator).
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

USA poster

European poster (note release date)

Summary: (Note this is the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis includes "an America wracked by crime and overcrowded prisons", which is never mentioned in the movie. Press kit, perhaps?).
If on one night every year, you could commit any crime without facing consequences, what would you do? In The Purge, a speculative thriller that follows one family over the course of a single night, four people will be tested to see how far they will go to protect themselves when the vicious outside world breaks into their home. In an America wracked by crime and overcrowded prisons, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity-includingmurder-becomes legal. The police can't be called. Hospitals suspend help. It's one night when the citizenry regulates itself without thought of punishment. On this night plagued by violence and an epidemic of crime, one family wrestles with the decision of who they will become when a stranger comes knocking. When an intruder breaks into James Sandin's (Ethan Hawke) gated community during the yearly lockdown, he begins a sequence of events that threatens to tear a family apart. Now, it is up to James, his wife, Mary (Lena Headey), and their kids to make it through the night without turning into the monsters from whom they hide. Directed by James DeMonaco (writer of Assault on Precinct 13 and The Negotiator), The Purge is produced by Jason Blum of Blumhouse (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister), Platinum Dunes' partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form (The Amityville Horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), as well as S├ębastien Kurt Lemercier (Assault on Precinct 13).(c) Universal

Metonymy. I mention this word often in my reviews and articles. It means the small represents the whole. For instance, we know that the first time we saw The Simpsons, we noticed that Bart called his father Homer, not Dad or Pa, but by his first name. What can we gather from this without watching any more of the episode? Well, we know that the boy has little respect for the older man; we know that the father allows it, so it’s been going on a while. We know the boy is used to having his way; we know the father doesn’t care one way or the other if the boy has his way. Everything we surmise from this small use of the word “Homer” is called metonymy. The Purge is a fine example of the literary term.

Let’s see how.

What we hear and what we know but don’t see.
  • The Religious Left has taken over the USA. Possibly in the 2020 election, as the movie takes place in 2022. Every other word spoken on the television is “God” this and “God” that.
  • The homeless problem has not gone away even though the statistics boast a one-percent unemployment rate and a booming economy. If anything, the homeless probably stand out more. We can also note that the homeless man being chased by the “purgers” is wearing dog tags, so he must be ex-military. War has either ended or continues, but the veterans are still getting shafted by the government.
  • Poor people (and the homeless) are the targets of the purgers. The term “cleansing” is a synonym for the purge, thus implying that certain types of undesirables are being removed from society on the day of The Purge. With the removal of social programs, the poor would be more visible in an economically strong community (house in disrepair, unmowed lawns, etc), thus making them viable targets for a cleansing.
  • The majority of the USA is happy with The Purge. It works. The removal of these bad elements is placed in the hands of the people, out of the government’s social services. Crime stats are low because potential robbers, thieves, and other criminals who survive poverty by such means, are being eradicated once a year, like a Spring cleaning.
  • There is still a class system as Level 10 citizens are off-limits to the purgers. I guess levels one through nine are open season then. We never learn any more of this “level” system, but we know the Level 10 are no doubt responsible for the annual purging and its marketing, which we see a lot of on the TV.  

Onto the movie now.

The Sandin family consists of father James, mother Mary, daughter Zoey, son Charlie, a perfect nuclear group save for a shaggy dog. They are rich. Even the wealthy neighbors comment on how rich they are. James installs security systems, and he sells quite a few; why, he’s even getting a bonus for selling the most at his job. Though no one says it, he is a profiteer, a carpetbagger, per se, since he’s not a purge participant nor does he speak of “God” the way the others throughout the movie do. Everything is hunky-dory for the Sandins who plan to skip the Purge again this year by turtling themselves into their armored walls securing their home and catching the whole 12 hours of fun on TV; they also plan to catch a movie on video too (Disney, I bet).

Normal nuclear couple: James and Mary Sandin

A corrupt version of the nuclear couple

Then the seams of Sandin perfection start to show. Teenager Zoey has an older boyfriend whom she doesn't want her father to find out about; Charlie wonders why his parents don’t participate in the cleansing. Then there’s the matter of the homeless veteran that Charlie lets into the house after the Purge has started. The religious lefties outside want their homeless prey back, and they have the means to crack open that armored turtle shell. And the Straw Dogs massacre begins.

Yuppie college kids out for a purge

I must point out that I have left out a number of potential “spoilers” because they are so crucial to the plot turns that only seem cut and dried, but believe me, the metonymy of this movie foreshadows much of the twists and surprises. The Sandin household is a microcosm of the new Leftist macrocosm. This movie is not horror. It is suspense. But the metonymic overtures are all horror. Throughout the movie, on the TV, there are reports of gruesome killings (purges) all over the USA (Dallas, Texas is number one in kills, for instance--get it? It's a joke). Remember The Cabin in the Woods (2012) where we hear about all the killings all over the world via TV, but only witness the one cabin where our heroes are. Again, a microcosm of the macro. (As a matter of fact, CITW would be a great double-feature for The Purge!).

Cabin in the Woods as bureaucracy 

I really looked forward to this movie. Overall, it delivered the goods, and although I discuss metonymy and its importance, I wished director DeManaco had shown a bit more of the new government (see: Hunger Games). The Purge is more than a “horror” movie, as it is being marketed (all the trailers were for horror films); it is a political statement from the 99%ers. But with a twist, which I cannot reveal here. That would spoil all the fun of the ending. So, if you want gruesome deaths and vicious murders, this might not be your cup of tea, as they say, but you might enjoy it as a rental when it comes out. For those who like a bit of political savvy behind their horror flicks, this might work for you. Might not. It worked for me. I feel cleansed.

Afterthought: A third of the audience was so mesmerized by the ending that they remained behind even as the theater staff cleaned out the popcorn bags and soda cups. We gathered in the first three rows and actually discussed the movie. This went on until the next group of movie-goers shooed us away. I haven’t seen this happen at a movie in a long time. I first saw it happen at a midnight screening for the first showing of Eraserhead by David Lynch. Hope The Purge finds its audience. The showing I attended was about 3/4 full. The group that shooed us was bigger. Hope they aren't expecting a horror movie. There’s lots more there than just killings to appreciate.

Note: The Purge pulled in $14 million bucks on Friday alone, $30 million overall, and it's only Saturday. AFTER EARTH, you paying attention? 

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