The Purge – Franchise Catch Up

The Purge films never appealed to me, I thought the premise was stupid and just couldn’t get on board with the idea. For those that don’t know, it centres around the annual Purge. A night where for 12 hours everything is legal. People riot, loot and murder to their hearts content and then there are no repercussions and they all live happily for the next year. I’ve been told by several people that these are good horror films and with a new one in the cinema soon, I’ve decided it’s time to catch up and give them all a go. After watching each film in the series so far, I’ve written my initial thoughts on each one.

The Purge

Now that I’ve watched it, I can confirm the premise is stupid. It’s even presented stupidly in the film. The idea that everyone can commit murder for one day and then be happy for the following year just makes no sense. However if you can get past this and get on board with the set-up, then there are some tense moments and some genuine terror in store for you. Sadly, this is mostly undermined by bad and clunky dialogue, annoying unlikable characters and enough plot holes to fit their humongous house in. Why does the dad equip their house with the security system he sells, when he knows it doesn’t work? Why don’t they use their guns to take out the attackers while they are still outside? If they are mega-rich and live in a world where this happens every year, why don’t they have automated turrets or guns? Why don’t they have a panic room? Why do they leave the man who they decide to defend tied up, instead of getting him to help? Why don’t rich people holiday abroad for that one day?

This film will leave you with more questions, and that’s even without diving into the premise too much and questioning what it means for racism and class equality in America. If everything is legal for one night, surely racism and prejudice would run wild. People can’t purge their idiotic thoughts. They do dance around with this, but they stray away from diving into it and actually giving answers.

On top of all the questions the film gives you, it also isn’t scary. The group of bad guys are just annoying.  The person playing their leader can’t act and his dialogue is beyond stupid. Apparently everyone turns into psychos for the one night, I wonder how they act normally. They skip around with machetes, which isn’t menacing in the slightest. The neighbours also perform a ritualistic sermon before attempting to kill the remaining family. It’s stupid, over the top and detracts from any horror the film has set up. There is also an over-reliance on people being saved just at the nick of time. The film does have some tense moments, that build slowly and it can be gripping in places, but it just turns dumb too quickly to do anything with it. They are there to kill them, but pop their head around corners in an almost jump-scare fashion and watch them walk away instead.

I feel that this could have been a good film, if the characters were more likeable. If they weren’t mega rich elites then it could have been better. It wasn’t the worst film I’ve ever seen, but I don’t think it deserves much praise either. I’ve started so I’ll continue with the rest of them. Hopefully they aren’t all this bad. I feel stupider just watching it. At least it was only an hour and 20ish minutes. This was longer than I planned.

Purge: Anarchy

Miles better than the first one. The premise is still stupid, but it makes more sense here. We learn that The Purge is designed to lower the population. This one starts from a much better starting point as the characters are likable. Gone are the rich elite, here are working class people who just want to survive. It’s tense, entertaining and thrilling. The race and class issues that were danced around in the first one are tackled head on in this one, which is good. The world is more interesting, the villains are actually scary and not clowns. The stakes are real and there is a lot less saving people at the last moment. However, the culling of the population makes less sense the more you think about it.  It’s also strange that the hospital isn’t flooded with people at the end.

Overall, it’s a much better film and I enjoyed this one. Nothing spectacular, but enjoyable. I do have a burning question. If someone did something horrible, and I mean beyond extreme, like fed someone their own newborn child and then left them alive. Would the person retaliate the following day or honour the Purge and let it be or get revenge the next year. That’s the story I want from the next one. They almost did it with this one but it was a random drunk hit and run outside of a Purge night. A real missed opportunity. 

The Purge: Election Year

The first half of this one is the best of the series so far. The three story-lines progressing separately before joining together, feels a little like a TV Show, but is really well done and keeps the pace moving nicely. They’re also engaging storylines. Sadly, this isn’t sustained through the whole of the film and once the 3 storylines join together it starts to become very bland and cookie-cutter feeling.

The stupid annoying girls who try to break into the store are so frustrating. I don’t know why we have the slow-mo skipping from the first one back. Why is it there? It’s not scary, it’s not funny. Why? When they die it’s a relief, but the effects in this scene look so bad and amateurish, especially the girl getting shot with the shotgun in the face. It’s appalling effects for film from 2016.

The acting in this one is a mixed bag. The sweating politicians are so over the top and it’s just distracting. The main characters are decent enough. I just wish we didn’t get the church scene at the end. The crazy priest and politician guy. It’s like in the first one with the guy at the door, talking to the family. Are the writers trying to go for so bad it’s good or funny? It doesn’t work in this case, it’s just silly and destroys any kind of tension that’s been built up. 

I do think the second film is better than this one overall, but the first 40 or so minutes of this was pretty great. It doesn’t keep it up, sadly. One more to go.

The First Purge

We have an origin story for The Purge. It tries very hard to deal with the main concept of the series and make it feel believable and I think that’s its main success, it does that. Seeing the beginnings make the rest feel more plausible. It starts small, with fudged numbers and builds from there.  

In this one, we see that The Purge is started as an experiment and certain participants are given money to purge. This is where it starts and when people don’t join in as expected, the NFFA take matters into their own hands. It does feel a lot more real, that the idea that started The Purge is just to cull the population and not to cut crime throughout the rest of the year. This was mentioned in the second one, but it wasn’t clear if that was why it started or what it turned into.

The film itself is quite boring though. There are some interesting characters, but it isn’t gripping. It chugs along at its own pace and has some good moments. It’s still miles better than the first one, but not amazing. I do like that the series never becomes a parody of itself. There are so many long running horror series where film 3 onwards is more comedic and silly than scary. I don’t think any of them have been scary, as much as the first one tried to be, but at least they haven’t started being silly. It also deals with some tougher subjects in this one, there’s a lot of white supremacism as villains which makes this one feel a lot more realistic.

Final Thoughts

The Purge series is not great. The first one is a dreadful horror film that isn’t scary, has way too many stupid moments and doesn’t do anything original. It’s essentially The Strangers, but somehow even worse than that crap. The second one is bigger in scale, and with a bigger focus on action. I like this one the most. It has the best characters, the best pacing and makes the world and premise interesting. The third one, revolving around an election has a genuinely great opening 40 minutes or so. Then it just goes on and on. It’s nothing special but the opening makes it a decent film. The 4th one almost makes the whole set up plausible but isn’t a great stand-alone film, as it’s quite dull. It’s more of a crutch for those that can’t get passed the premise. Hopefully one of the future films will deal with how this would affect the rest of the year. It feels like there’s a lot more social commentary in the later films, which is good as it’s missing from the first one. When the central idea is stood upon population control and wealth disparity, it would be great if the film dealt with that, otherwise they may just be randomly attacked by a group of psychos who have some kind of signal blocker to stop them calling the police. It would be the same plot, essentially. The actual Purge itself doesn’t really matter in the first one.

To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend the series to anyone, at least unless there isn’t anything else available. As much as I want to like them, I just don’t. The skipping characters in 1 and 3 are just annoying. The films themselves are forgettable, watchable trash. That’s the best thing I can say about them. They do have there moments, but they just aren’t that good. If you have to watch one, start with number 2. It’s the best one by a mile and a decent movie in its own right. The first one should be avoided at all costs, it’s appallingly bad. 3 + 4 are decent enough, but nothing spectacular.

About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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