Original horror films seem to be all the rage this century, pushing the boundaries of emotional trauma and gore. The 21st century has seen various franchises thrive such as the Final Destination series which is more geared towards a younger demographic to the Saw and Hostel series which kickstarted the “torture porn” subgenre of horror. By the 2010s, it felt as though audiences were exhausted by horror filmmakers attempting to make their films more and more unrelenting in gore and a desire for something more engaging and relevant was the way to revitalise the dwindling horror genre. Audiences were responding more to the Paranormal Activity series meaning jumpscares and found footage was proving to be more popular. Enter The Purge, written and directed by James DeMonaco, originally released in 2013 and bringing a new approach to the new outlook on horror. Set in an alternative universe where the malevolent New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) enter office and pass a bill where crime including murder and torture is legal for 12 hours.
As one of the most divisive franchises this century, The Purge is unapologetic in incorporating current policitical issues more and more with each new film. Classicism is prominent in each film as it is abundantly clear that the rich purge on the homeless and those in more disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The rich also have access to high-tech security, ensuring that their homes won’t be damaged by anyone. Consisting of four films, a TV show and a fifth film due to be released next year, The Purge series is one that has remained popular with its audience with every release.
Here are my reviews and rankings for The Purge films:
The Purge (2013)
The original film starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Heady as the parents in a nuclear household became an understated classic on release. James Sandin (Hawke) runs a firm that designs security software that keeps the rich’s households safe during purge night. When a homeless man (Edwin Hodge) manages to sneak in thanks to their sympathetic son, Charlie, a gang of elite youths happen upon their house and demand that the Sandins give them the man. Brilliantly marketed with the creepy masks donned by the home invaders, The Purge proved to be one of the most interesting ideas in horror in quite some time. A lot of criticism for the film was a demand to see a wider scope rather than just the one suburban household. There are some pacing issues in the script and some characters weren’t as developed as I would like but I think this film was more about pushing the idea of the series than going all out in the first installment. It’s a solid start to a thriving series.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
This sequel was released only a year after its predecessor and gave the series a solid direction by being bigger and bolder in its discussion on the class war in America. Focusing on a struggling Latin-American family in LA, we see how those with power use the purge as a means to kidnap people against their will, knowing they don’t have the affluent resources to protect themselves. The household consist of waitress Eva (Carmen Ejogo), her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) and her father Rico (John Beasley) who is terminally ill. There are a lot of topics just within this family that the film uses as a springboard for the rest of the franchise. From Rico sacrificing himself for money so his family are financially secure, Cali’s enthusiasm for the anti-purge resistance group led by Carmelo Johns. This film also sees the introduction of Sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), a man set on revenge for the murder of his son who was killed at the hands of a drunk driver. Soon enough the separate groups join forces and have to work together to survive the purge whilst being stuck outside in the middle of the city.
The Purge: Election Year (2016)
The third installment in this series works its way higher up the ranks as a rising star in the political world, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) stands a chance to win the Presidential election and end the purge once and for all. The New Founding Fathers are aware of this and eliminate the rule that government officials are immune from the purge and send a group of mercenaries to kidnap the Senator. Leading the Senator’s security detail is Leo Barnes (Grillo) who is a brilliant character. Barnes proves his resourceful abilities and intellect to protect the Senator from harm. The Senator and Sergeant soon meet a group who are trying to protect a deli from troublesome teenagers. One of the best performances to come out of this franchise is the fantastic Mykelti Williamson as deli owner, Bob. Williamson delves into his character and is able to make his supporting turn a three-dimensional experience with motivations and realism.
The First Purge (2018)
The latest installment to be released comes in the form of this prequel into the first ever purge. Originating as an experiment on Staten Island, residents are offered a financial incentive if they stay and more if they partake and survive. Following two warring drug dealers, a mysterious purger called Skeletor who wants to kill and a group of young people struggling to survive, it becomes clear that the NFFA will do anything to make sure the murder count is high, even if it means sending in mercenaries to kill citizens. The corruption in the purge is evident as it is a plan to cut costs of social programs and housing expenses for those who are poor. When they discover that there are more parties than killings, the NFFA see this as a failure and manipulate the night to ensure that it is a success in their eyes.
Well that’s it for my reviews. As a big fan of the series, there are aspects of each film that I appreciate making it a challenge to rank but here we go!
Here’s my final ranking:
1) The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
2) The Purge: Election Year (2016)
3) The First Purge (2018)
4) The Purge (2013)
Which installment of The Purge is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below!