Decriminalised Murder. An outlet for American Rage

I recently saw The Purge (James DeMonaco) at the cinema. Please note before reading any further that this blog will contain spoilers.

The basic premise of the film, set in 2022, is that a new government has taken over, and has created The Purge. A night – or 12 hours to be precise – where all crime is legal. The purpose of this is so society can “purge” all of the hate and anger that has built up within them without having to face the legal ramifications. The results of this night are that crime is at an all time low, unemployment is at 1% and the population is a manageable amount.

When this night takes place in 2022, a small family – who opts out of the purge, but still shows respect and understanding for it – ends up being terrorized and hunted in their own home after the youngest of the family lets someone take refuge with them.

A lot of people have given this film bad reviews. A lot of people say its predictable, its stupid, its unrealistic. I haven’t found many people examining the film from my point of view.

It really made me think. A lot. I left the cinema with so many questions, almost to the point that I didn’t actually think about whether or not I enjoyed it. Now I’m going to open up these thoughts and questions to you.

The Purge Chain

This is something I came up, similar to the food chain, that can be used to examine how the purge affects the people involved –

  1. High Ranking Officials – They are on a special list that makes them exempt from The Purge. They are not to be harmed, and presumably they can do no harm. If they can’t, then they have no place on this chain. If they are, then they are top of the food chain.
  2. The Purgers – Those that take the night very seriously. They purposely commit murder and violent crimes because they feel it is the right to do so. They treat it as ritual cleansing. Although they won’t aim to harm those who respectfully choose not to take part, they will if they get in their way. They will even harm their own if they must. It is quite possible that they plan for this night year round. They probably feel no guilt for their crimes.
  3. The Psychos/yobs – Those who would commit crime anyway, either because they are evil or cruel, or those who can’t help it because they are mentally unstable. They probably don’t care about the purge, or the meaning behind it. They are probably part of the small amount of people who still commit crimes year round. They probably won’t get attacked, or at least if they do will be quite likely to survive.
  4. Decliners – Those who respectfully refuse to purge. They place blue flowers outside of their homes to show they understand the meaning behind the night, but don’t wish to cause harm nor take part in any. Although it’s not stated throughout the film, it is presumed that the “decliners” are rich and live in gated communities. They are rich enough to be able to afford security systems and to be able to put their houses into lockdown. Although they are open to attack, it is unlikely. They won’t do any damage unless it is in self-defense.
  5. The Curious/Needy – These few individuals will most likely commit none violent crimes. The majority will do things that they would like to do without having to go to prison or face up to the consequences, like sit at home taking drugs or stealing a fancy TV. They’re definitely open to getting hurt, but most likely from being in the wrong time at the wrong place.
  6. The Homeless/Poor – One of the reasons that the purge was created, was to remove the “unworthy” from society. By getting rid of those that don’t contribute,they are making the world a better place. They are targeted and hunted by “The Purgers” and are least likely to be able to defend themselves.

As is demonstrated by this film though, The Purge chain does not always apply. The Decliners end up having to use self-defense – in quite a violent manner – to survive the night. They actually saved by who we assume is part of the 6th group.

The sort of impression you get from the characters in the film is that a lot of people opt out, but most feel it works. Whether or not this is true is never stated, but maybe it is just fear of what will happen to them if they offer up a differing opinion.

Whilst watching the film, and studying the habits of the family, I realized that a lot of things hang in a very delicate balance for them, and for the rest of their society. If such a thing were to ever come about – and I’ve heard many people call the film ridiculous, unrealistic, and say it would never happen, but looking back through history there are a lot of things that people have said that same about that have come to pass. I’m not saying this will ever happen, of course.

Just think if it did though. This film made me think about how we would think and feel if it did happen. It certainly made me question  a lot of different issues both in the film and in reality even now. Please read on to see what they are, and know I am very curios to see what you think!

1. All crime has been made legal for this 12 hour period. The theory is that it helps society and it has been proven to have worked, to some extent at least. Is it healthy? Although the film only focuses on a small group of people “letting off steam” by beating on others and taking part in what can be considered as ritualistic murders, what else is there? Without a doubt there are many other crimes that haven’t been mentioned or just hinted at. Who’s to say that the scum of the earth aren’t planning their dream night for the rest of the year? Sure, there will be the mentally unstable who can’t fight their urges no matter what time of year it is, but what about those who are just plain sick, and twisted but smart enough to know that if they take part in whatever horrendous crime they want on this particular night, they will walk away from it scott free. As is often the case, there is definitely a flaw in the system.

2. All crime is legal, therefore you could quite easily be murdered – or God know’s what else – by your neighbour. They might very well murder your children. Of course, all over this new America, all kinds of crimes are being committed by all kinds of people, but just focusing on the family in the film for a moment, whose neighbors decide they deserve to be murdered basically because they have a lot of money. They fail, but what does that mean for the rest of the year. That the families are meant to sit and way? Get revenge? Avoid each other in the supermarket so they don’t have to make extremely awkward small talk.

3. Just because all crime is legalised, doesn’t make it right. If you take away the legal ramifications, what’s left? Well, I would like to think a conscience. I hope that the majority of people who don’t commit crimes, aren’t stopped by the law, but their  own little Jimminy Cricket; the guilt; the personal ramifications.

4. In this new society children are raised to The Purge as normality. Does exposing children to such behaviour give them a stable environment? Would such violent actions not have the potential to cause psychological damage, thus causing problems with future generations?

5. Although it’s not mentioned in the film, perhaps there are rules for children? Not being allowed to take part until you’re of a certain age, or something like that? Whether or not, parents should be setting the example. They should be making them aware of the ramifications and importance of the night, and most importantly the consequences if they do not “play by the rules”

6. The film opens up the debate of whether or not you could sacrifice to a complete stranger to protect your family? I believe most families would say yes when asked the question at their local pub on a Friday night. However, if the situation were to become a reality, would that still be the case?

I would now like to discuss the actual film for what it is. Generally speaking, I think it’s a good idea for a film, but one that needs to stay fictional. I feel it possibly would have been better if it focused on a wider series events, instead of this one family. It also would have been bet the  better to be given more insight into The Purge, as opposed to a few sentences at the beginning of the film.

It was predictable but tried to cover that up by throwing in a few jumpy bits, and of course the confusing moment early on in the 12 hour purge when Zoey’s boyfriend decides it’s time to confront her father, and all of a sudden guns are being fired, for what seems like a completely pointless sequence!

The best part of the film, is without a doubt at the end when they are all sitting round the Sandin’s table waiting for the siren to go off. Mrs Ferrin reaches for the gun for one last attempt to kill Mary, but she reacts quickly, hitting her in the nose with the butt of the gun and then as the alarm goes off signally the end, telling them to get the f**k out of her house. She had the opportunity to kill them all but she didn’t. She let them live, so they can feel awkward, shameful and hopefully guilty.  A wise choice Mary.

One thing that seems to have really bugged a lot of people, myself included, was the Sandin’s protection. They have a lock down security system that he later admits “looks nice” but isn’t all that impenetrable. He also gets a gun out at the start of the purge – a tiny gun – just in case. What I don’t get is if they had the money, why they didn’t get a panic room, and some other forms of much better protection from the outside world? I mean sure, it would have been a much worse film, but you see where I’m coming from!

All in all, this film was passable, but only just.


Categories: film, Reviews, Uncategorized

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