Politics and horror can make for strange bedfellows: The combination of the two can either provide a fresh look at current events, or they can wind up preachy.  The latter is the case with The Purge.
It's 2022, and the New Founding Fathers have instituted a tradition called the Purge: once a year, from 7 P.M. to 7 A.M., all crime is legal (including murder) and there are no police, medical, or emergency services during that time.  Proponents of the Purge (who show their support with purple flowers outside their homes) say it gives people a release from the anger, jealousy, and other negative feelings they build up during the year.  Opponents claim it's a just another way to support the rich and eliminate the poor, since the wealthy can protect themselves in their homes while the poor have to fend for themselves on the streets.  Naturally, people can also watch live footage of the Purge killing and destruction on television.

James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) supports the Purge; he also profits from it, living in a gated community and making a living selling home security systems.  His wife Mary (Lena Hedley) also goes along with it, even if she doesn't participate.  Their teenage daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) is more concerned that her dad doesn't like her older boyfriend Henry (Rhys Wakefield), while their young son Charlie (Max Burkholder) is mainly interested in playing with a remote-control creepy doll/video camera.
The Sandin family seems ready to settle in for the Purge -- protected behind blast doors, watching the neighborhood through video cameras, and carrying guns just to be safe --  when Charlie sees a stranger (Edwin Hodge) running from pursuers, bloody, and screaming for help.  Clarlie lets him into their home, which makes James and Mary nervous because they don't know if he's dangerous.  Worse, the pursuers (young people wearing creepy grinning masks and armed with guns and machetes) followed him to the Sandin home.  The gang's leader (Tony Oller) gives the James an ultimatum: Turn over the stranger so the gang can finish "purging" on him, or they'll break into the house and make the Sandin family their prey as well.

While The Purge is ostensibly a horror/suspense movie, it's more about social commentary.  The Sandin's are the stereotypical upper-class family (they even consider buying a boat) who are fine with something that affects the poorer people -- until it affects them.  The stranger being pursued is a black homeless man (whose dog tags suggest he's a veteran), while the gang leader is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed young man in a prep school uniform.  Subtlety is not this movie's strong suit (though neither is logic: Would the nation really benefit from unfettered looting, destruction, and murder one night a year?).  Unfortunately, The Purge is also not that effective at scaring the audience either.  While there are some unsettling moments (from the grinning masks to seemingly normal neighbors sharpening weapons in anticipation of killing), the movie ultimately comes down to a standard siege drama (not unlike the terrible horror movie The Strangers).  I doubt The Purge will come to pass -- but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone either.

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

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