When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I said to myself, “Oh, it’s like The Hunger Games.” After the preview had played for a few seconds, I said to myself, “Oh, it’s like Funny Games, too.” The obvious reliance on established horror tropes made me a bit nervous, but there was no getting around the cool idea: for one night every year, all crimes are legal.
The film started out strong. We have the security system salesman in the nice neighborhood and his little family. The Purge begins and things start to go wrong. The daughter’s boyfriend sneaks inside, and the son offers refuge to a bleeding man pleading for help, a move that attracts yuppie psychopaths to the home like sharks to chummed waters.
I was enjoying myself until the ending really caught its stride, like a kid with a soccer ball toward the opposite team’s goal. All the build-up, all the tension that had been established, was completely destroyed in one fell swoop. We went from a perfectly competent home invasion story to a hodgepodge of revenge, cult activity, and forced social commentary that ought not to have been.
In my day job, once every year, it is my duty to evaluate the performance of children’s entertainers. This past year there was this one guy- a juggler- who wowed the audience by juggling three, then four, then five red rubber balls. When he moved to add the sixth, though, he stumbled a little. The balls started hitting the floor, destroying the excitement and wonder. He picked them up and tried again and again. On the fourth attempt, he did it. He took a bow and exited the stage.
The moral of this story, of course, is that juggling five balls is perfectly adequate if you’re unable to juggle six well. The Purge was that juggler. If you find yourself attracted to this movie, I encourage you to watch Funny Games (the original or the remake) instead. It will actually deliver that feeling you’re looking for.