Who the hell are Blumhouse Productions? Seriously though, in case you have a low attention span, you might have noticed that Jason Blum has hijacked low budget theatrical horror, and has been giving it noogies in hopes of squeezing some quality genre fare out. For the most part, he’s been successful, at least financially. And, a good majority of what comes out of the studio is pretty good. I hated the first two Paranormal Activity films with a passion, and then Paranormal Activity 3 came along. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the third film, but it made me revisit, and find a new appreciation for the first two films. Then, unfortunately, PA 4 came along and fucked it all up. The Purge teams Blumhouse up with Michael Bay’s genre production company, Platinum Dunes, as well as Universal Studios. The results are a little mixed, as compared to some previous Blumhouse Productions, but I still enjoyed myself for the most part.
Synopsis: 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-including murder-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.
It’s hard to tell whether or not there’s actually a political message to be consumed within The Purge. If there is one, it’s poorly executed and convoluted. If they just wanted a political setup for their concept to make sense, it’s understandable, but it seems like they would have put a little more work into something like that. Politically charged movies are a good thing, so long as the filmmaker knows what their message is, and I’m not certain that that is the case with this film. It is a cool idea, after all, that murder be legalized for one night only, for everyone to get it out of their system, but that is assuming that everyone that kills is a serial killer, with these feelings building up inside of them until they seek release. In reality, most of the killings that occur are due to not only crime, but the prohibition of a substance that drives the market underground, and ultimately, creates the need for funding for various forms of Law Enforcement that we wouldn’t need otherwise. Why do we care what people put into their bodies? It’s because there’s money to be made in both task forces, as well as the corrupt private prison structure, which pays our congressmen to manipulate legislation that gets them more of our tax dollars so that they can imprison us for consuming a plant in a recreational way.
So, trust me, I understand the frustration, but if we’re going to have that discussion, let us do it in a way that people understand. Or, maybe I’m just reading far too much into it, like I said above, and they needed an excuse to execute a cool idea somebody tossed out in the office one day. It’s a movie, after all, and it doesn’t always have to make complete sense, it just helps, especially for politically-minded genre fans such as myself. The home invasion sub-genre of horror has become quite stale, lately, after the critical success of films such as Kidnapped, one of my personal favorites Cherry Tree Lane and the likes. But, Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey and Rhys Wakefield turn in interesting enough performances that makes this one at least worth a Redbox rental.
What I’m trying to say here is, let’s keep our expectations in check while watching this one, okay? I know we’re used to quality output when we see Blumhouse Productions attached to a title, and The Purge isn’t exactly terrible, but it’s definitely not up to the standards they’ve set so far with some of their previous films. This is, after all, more of a Universal Studios film this time around, rather than a super low budget bit of awesomeness such as Insidious. It’s October, and you should go out of your way to see as many horror films as you possibly can, especially ones that you’ve never seen before. My biggest gripe is that I got excited for the same-old-same-old but with a great new twist, and that the great new twist turned out to be kind of a bust. We’ve seen this movie several times before, and better. Having already seen The Purge previous to my home video viewing, I knew what to expect, and was able to forgive some of its shortcomings and just enjoy it for what it was. It’s definitely not THEM or The Strangers, but it has high production values and great actors, and a few jump scares. I can think of a few worse ways to spend a chilly October evening.
The Blu-Ray release of this film is damn near barebones, which is sadly the new industry norm for first run features. There are always exceptions, of course, but more and more companies put almost zero work into packaging extras with new releases. They like to give us more ways to watch the movies, such as including a DVD in with the Blu-ray packaging, as well as digital copies and Ultraviolet, and I know some of you love that kind of thing, but it’s useless to me, and I find it to be a poor replacement for quality extras. There is one featurette with some behind the scenes interviews disguised as “The Making Of”, and that is it. That’s okay, though, because this isn’t exactly a film you’ll want to dig any deeper into after the credits roll. It is what it is, and nothing more.
The Purge is now available on DVD & Blu-ray from Universal.