Brilliant Concept, Mediocre Execution: “The Purge” Lacks Thrills

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This Slasher Studios review comes all the way from the Netherlands as Ferdi Akkulak takes a look at The Purge. Make sure to check out his video clips and subscribe to his Youtube Channel for more.

There was quite some buzz for The Purge going forward to its release. And that all started with the trailer that surfaced on Youtube around April 2013. The trailer already catched my eye from the very beginning so I definitely knew about this movie for quite some time. In my opinion the trailer looked very scary and intense and had a nice and original premise. I think that the cast, while mostly unknown to me, looks really great and refreshing. Somehow the movie reminds me of a 2008 movie called The Strangers. I own that movie on DVD and I gotta say that is one scary and thrilling movie. The idea of The Purge really reminds me of The Strangers and in someway it looks like it could be a sequel to that movie. But that is probably not the case here. I am really looking forward to The Purge and how it eventually turns out to be like.

The cast as I said is pretty unknown to me but I do know a few of the cast members so that’s good. First off we have the great and likeable actor Ethan Hawke! A terrific and talented actor, no doubt! However, I haven’t seen him in a single movie… Recently movies like Sinister and Before Midnight came out in theatres starring him but I missed both those movies. However later this year he’s gonna star in the movie Getaway together with Selena Gomez so I look forward to that movie because of him. I really need to see some of his previous movies! Next up is Lena Headey, a beautiful and promising actress. However, like Ethan, I haven’t seen her star in any movie so far. She did star as the villain in Dredd 3D last year but I missed that movie, she seemed bad-ass in that movie so her role in The Purge definitely seems more like the opposite. Next up is Adelaide Kane. A beautiful young actress. I haven’t seen her in any movies so far, but in the trailer she seems like she has a strong performance so I really look forward to her role! Next up is the very likeable and charming Rhys Wakefield! I have seen this great actor in the movie Sanctum, 2 years ago. That movie and his role didn’t really do anything for his career prospects as his role was as one dimensional as the movie itself. However he seems really good and creepy in the trailer of The Purge. I think a great and young up and coming actor that hasn’t yet find the right genre yet. I really hope he found it with this movie.

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The Purge is directed by James DeMonaco, he has only directed one time before: a movie called ‘Little New York’. It went direct to DVD but it did also star Ethan Hawke so this is the second time they collaborate. However The Purge marks his first theatrical feature film debut so that is exciting. He has written a couple of movies before going over to directing like the movie Skinwalkers. I can’t really judge him on any of his work he has done so far as I haven’t seen them. It is exciting though, an up and coming director is always exciting to see.

The Purge is released by Universal Pictures. Also the same distributor for the movie in my country. The running time of the movie is 85 minutes. And that is a very short running time. I kind of hate that with horror movies, the running time is always below average for movies. I don’t know why they do that, to make a faster end to a movie? I think it’s ridiculous. I can already say that the movie could’ve been a whole lot longer. It is an R-rated horror movie though so you can never expect what you are going to get in that short amount of time. I hope a lot! The Purge was made for a reported $3 million, now that is very small! Its like the recipe of a successful movie, a really low budget. I felt the trailer made the movie look a whole lot more expensive so I am definitely impressed by this result. I hope it’s not messy cause mostly with a small budget like that, things might be lacking that you might’ve seen better in more bigger movies. I also wonder how much the pay checks were for the actors in the movie, clearly not that much so I am in odd. The movie was released in theatres in America on June 7th 2013 and was a huge commercial hit at the box office (as we all predicted). The movie already opened big on opening weekend with a big number of $34 million in only 3 days. That is so impressive and not to mention how many times it already made its budget back. We can definitely expect a sequel in the near future for The Purge. However the movie was also a bit frontloaded but that still makes it a huge financial success as it so far has grossed in America an amazing total of: $64,3 million. Such a great number and as I said the start of a franchise! Internationally the movie didn’t quite do as well as it did domestically but it still did well enough with a so far total of $14,1 million making a combined worldwide total of $78,4 million.

I am sure Universal were cheering because of this grand success story! This was definitely the case of strong buzz prior release, cause the reviews weren’t all that stellar to be honest. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a score of: 38% – Rotten (meaning that only 38% of the critics actually liked the movie). However the consensus most of the critics were giving to The Purge was: ‘Half social allegory, half home-invasion thriller, The Purge attempts to use thriller formula to make an intelligent point — but ultimately only ends up sinking in numbing violence and tired clichés.’ Ouch… Now I can definitely see why it was front loaded, word of mouth wasn’t positive for this one… It’s still a big hit none-the-less. In my country Holland the movie came out on July 18th 2013 (more than a month after it got released in America) and it did pretty modest at the box office. It’s only out for two weeks and it opened just decent, not high in the chart but with a healthy total. However in its second weekend it held on much better than expected and didn’t drop that much compared to opening weekend. So far it has grossed a tepid $352,914 here. But the good old suggests that word of mouth is actually strong for this movie in my country. Critics were much nicer towards the film compared to the critics in America. A lot of the praises went to the amount of suspense the movie has. However the moral of the movie got panned a lot as the message was not very clear in the end of the movie. Also praises went to the amount of jump scares and the great acting by Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey. Other critics call this movie a simple ‘guilty pleasure’. So overall the critics were evenly split about The Purge. Which means that there are as much positives as negatives in the movie. Very interesting. A lot of critics do agree that the interesting premise could’ve been developed much better than the end result.

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I was finally able to see The Purge on July 29th 2013 (almost two weeks after it got released in theatres in my country) and I obviously went in with decent expectations. On the other hand I was really looking forward to the movie especially because of the premise and the trailers that looked so awesome! Well I am sad to say but The Purge failed to live up to my expectations. And I believe that a big blame is to give to the very short running time. Sure, it went really fast but the movie was not given a chance to develop its very intriguing premise even further. It’s also character decisions that are most of the times very stupid and pointless and the only thing that these decisions do is create even more chaos. It’s like it happens on purpose, not to exactly gain the tension. It was definitely not the cast, although I admit that there were some unlikeable characters of the bunch. The movie is really scary though with a lot of jump scares to keep the suspense going. I also like the face point of views with the cameras making the movie look like a real home-invasion thriller but also as a found footage movie. It really works with the suspense though! The script while feeling very fresh from the start kind of fell into pieces when the ending eventually arrived with the very stupid plot twists.

There are almost as much positives as negatives about The Purge but I think the negatives outweigh the positives. It was just this movie I really looked forward too for a long time but ended up disappointing me. It has a fresh idea, interesting script, great actors and actresses and a great trailer but it just fails to live up. Acting performances were all over the board for The Purge. I really liked the acting performances of Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane and especially the very creepy performance of Rhys Wakefield. I hated the character of the youngest son of the family, Max Burkholder. He caused all the problems that happened to the family that night and was extremely annoying that one might wonder why he didn’t die… It’s just that he caused all the problems and killings. He was so convincing as the creepy guy that it scared me, he also has a lot of charm. Well the movie as I said, is scary, has its family drama moments but is also unintentionally funny. I mean, getting to see this really stupid twist and after that seeing the female lead character kicking the shit out of her ‘supposedly’ sweet neighbor is just freaking hilarious! It made me laugh so hard, easily one of the best movie moments of 2013 and the best scene of The Purge! The movie has some inventive ideas (even the smallest detail) but fails to develop all these promising things in its short running time! There is a nice use of violence in The Purge that I really dig. Fight scenes, people getting shot very brutally and a lot of guns used. It’s all really realistic at some point in the movie. I really liked that aspect, the way they were handling the violence. It obviously had no borderline or filter, so that was really cool! Also a bit graphic at some times. Well I think a lot of the problems in this movie are because of the very low production budget. And now with a sequel on the way I hope they improve a lot of things that they had wrong the first time around starting with the budget. It’s like the movie was short because they were running out of money. It needed more story, more explanation, more motives. I really felt some of these motives are ridiculous and don’t make a bit sense.

The Purge is a mixed bag of positives and negatives. Good acting, amazing use of violence against people, scary moments, good and thrilling camerawork, suspense and even funny at moments. However negatives also come looking as The Purge had very dumb and unexplained plot twists that were outright ridiculous, 1 very unlikeable character, the script that lacks any sense of development or perhaps a longer running time, the amount of questions we didn’t get any answers to (as the movie is only about 10 minutes that was taking place before the purge, and the rest of the movie is just terror but brainless). Also the self-awareness of this movie disappointed me a lot. Also the masked used in the movie were very scary and they needed to do much much more with that aspect of the movie. The negatives outweigh the positives as you see. This movie could’ve been so much better. I can only recommend it to you if you liked the trailer, love the cast and like the premise. But on the very latter, don’t rely on that too much or you will be disappointed. You really need to low ball your expectations for The Purge, trust me.

1.5