You’re a nice person. You also like nice things and work hard for what you have. You know the difference between right and wrong, and you with your little family live lawfully. You didn’t have to help that hunched-back old lady across the street this morning, but you walked into the office a little late because you did — not for the glory, but out of the kindness of your heart. So why should you let some two-bit scum jeopardize all that you’ve attained? Why should you let him blow your little mansion down?
No, for two-bit scum, we have the purge. Now, I don’t mean some tea that makes you run to the toilet every two minutes, I mean full on assault with deadly weapons, including your hands and feet; Life and liberty, after all, must be protected.
So what if, by law, every Spring you had 12 hours within which you could purge — legally release your violent desires? You’re law-abiding, so it’s only the scum who have to worry, right?
This is what writer/directer James DeMonaco’s film, The Purge, would have you consider; and the nagging fear of what others will do is what makes the concept of a society that purges for one night each year appealing.
Starring in the film are Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey as James, and Mary Sandin. As the film progresses, we come to know more about James, a home security salesman and family man who, within the 12-hour government-sanctioned purge, must determine the type of person he is, as must his other family members. And there’s nothing like a crisis to make this clear. Ethan isn’t worried though, he figures that there isn’t anyone out there who hates him enough to try to purge him from the world, and even if they do, he’s installed a purge-proof security system, so he expects the 12 hours to pass uneventfully for his family, that is until unpredicted events cause him to think otherwise.
Like Sandin, the audience feels at first distanced from the violence, but as it hits home, must think more critically about the benefits of the purge and whether they agree with it and its class system, which legally protects some and leaves others vulnerable.
Part thriller and part social commentary, the film focuses on the Sandin family and their neighbourhood to clearly demonstrate the perversity of sanctioning 12 hours of rampant violence as a means of driving down unemployment and criminality the rest of the year.
The powers that be in this futuristic America, encourage people, for the one night, to “release the beast and purge.” Afterward, they’re expected to lock up this well-behaved inner beast again. What the authorities don’t suggest is how much violence is enough for beastie’s cathartic release; However, it’s easy to conclude from what we see that opening the door to violence stimulates violence, and adding economic inequality in that scenario ensures safety swings further out of reach.
A broader perspective in the script would’ve allowed us to see beyond the violence. For example, it could’ve shown the roles religious organizations play — Do they, as we might expect, oppose the purge? And how did people without security systems endure the night? Is it as violent for them as we are left to assume from the media broadcasts, which effectively bring outside events in to us and the Sandins, and which show that particularly the poor — no mention of the middle class — are victimized?
Still, what happens to the Sandins is likely typical elsewhere on purge night, and when a merry band of bloodthirsty purgers eventually ends up at the Sandins’ door, the undercurrent of fear forces itself to the surface because we know everything hinges on the security system. Emergency services will not rescue them on purge night.
The purgers, appearing at first in masks, triggered thoughts of Stanley Kubrick’s film, A Clockwork Orange, and with it, unease about how much violence this gang of young people would unleash. But it turns out that while the vocal head of this purging gang is sociopathic, the violence he unleashes follows a code, unlike Alex in, A Clockwork Orange.
When at the appointed time the violence and fear subsides, both those who hid behind security gates and supported the free will of others by displaying blue flowers(baptisias), and those who launched into the night with weapons and homicidal schemes, have bloody hands. Therefore, the question is, at 7 AM, the day after the purge, will the extended community glimpse its crisis, or see none at all?