M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Three of my decade-long Retro-Best in Horror recap Countdowns begins officially on October 1, 2012 and goes through September 30, 2013. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2012 and September 30, 2013 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on June 7, 2013 and available on digital download, On Demand and BluRay/DVD here!

THE PURGE (2013)

Directed by James DeMonaco
Written by James DeMonaco
Starring Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield, Tony Oller, Arija Bareikis, Tom Yi, Chris Mulkey, Tisha French, Dana Bunch, Peter Gvozdas, John Weselcouch, Alicia Vela-Bailey, David Basila
Find out more about this film here!

The key to the success of THE PURGE series is the catharsis. It is all about going to the theater or watching your television and seeing folks do things that you wish you could do deep down in the darkest parts of your mind. You want to smash the face in of the neighbor who keeps letting his dog shit in your lawn. You want to take a crowbar to the knees of the cyclist who swerves in front of you in traffic and causes you to spill your drink. These are urges (hell it’s part of the title of the film) that make it understandable that the simple plot of THE PURGE has spawned sequels, prequels, and even a TV series since it was released way back in 2013. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of THE PURGE. I’ve seen the first one, but none of the rest. Still, I can see why this series is so popular for the masses.

For those living under a rock, The Purge is a nationwide holiday passed by the government where no laws are enforced. So for one night of the year, you can do whatever you want. Those who don’t want to participate in this mass murder and sin spree must lock themselves away and pray they make it til the morning. The first PURGE film focuses on the Sandin family, lead by father James (Ethan Hawke) and mother Mary (Lena Heady). Prepping for the upcoming Purge, the family begins sealing their home with a defense system of James making (he designs and sells home security) from intruders and planning what to watch on TV for the night. But their plans are disrupted when a beaten and bloody man appears on the monitor outside of their home pleading for help. After much moral debate with his family, James reluctantly lets the man in, which immediately brings the family home to the attention to a gang of Purgers who are after the bloodied man. When James refuses to release the wounded man to the gang, the gang makes it their goal to break into the Sandin’s impregnable fortress and James and his family fight for their lives to save their house and home.

I commend James DeMonaco for coming up with a concept with infinite possibilities. Basically, you can apply the Purge to any situation and it makes for an interesting moral story. It taps into existential questions pitting the civilized world with the world of a rule-less society, the haves vs. the have-nots, the inner madman vs. the public persona. There are endless types of people we can see go at it against one another and an unlimited amount of places it can take place in. This is exemplified by the multiple sequels and spinoffs that have been birthed from the original film.

Still, despite the winning premise, when it is boiled down to the basics, THE PURGE is your typical home invasion actioner. If you’ve seen HOSTAGE with Bruce Willis, you’ve seen THE PURGE. If you’ve seen any home invasion film, you’ve seen THE PURGE. What this film does so well is take the clichés and pair them with the winning idea behind the Purge. It’s got the rebellious daughter who doesn’t like her parents and bends the rules which topple the intricately placed defenses of the home. You’ve got the spunky youngster who has toys that can help the family if only they can get past the fact that the youngest knows best when it comes to technology. We’ve got the well intentioned, but overly protective parents who want to protect their family over everything and are willing to eventually kill to do it. You’ve also got the mom and dad not particularly getting along, most of the time professionally and personally in the bedroom department. All of these problems are presented in the first few moments of the film and all of them are solved by the end with the family unit being challenged by outside forces and reuniting to form a stronger bond having conquered that challenge together. It’s a cliché for a reason though. It’s a cliché that works. And it works here too.

Ethan Hawke proves to be a versatile actor who is willing to dive into genre films and take risks. This may not have been his most ambitious of roles, but he carries this film as the reluctant hero. Lena Heady plays against her usual cold roles and proves to be relatable and loving here as Mother Mary. The kids are annoying, but do decent jobs. And Rhys Wakefield is chillingly effective as the leader of the gang that are trying to burst into the home.

While the concept is quite scary, the film itself is more of an action thriller than a straight up horror film. Short moments of tension are punctuated with bullets and ‘splosions. This is a loud and bombastic film. It’s a true crowd pleaser that gives you clear bad guys to sneer at and a loving family to cheer for. THE PURGE stands out mainly because it is the first of a hugely successful franchise. It seems to have tapped into something with audiences and deserves a viewing simply to see what all of the hubbub is all about. Those looking for subtlety should check another residence. This is a big, bawdy film in concept and execution and a pretty fine popcorn thriller to boot.

Still and maybe even more relevant today as it was 7 years ago, THE PURGE is a film that packs a whallop. Now that I’ve rewatched THE PURGE, I’ve been interested in viewing the rest of the series, so watch for more Purging soon!


THE 2012-2013 COUNTDOWN!


#21 – THE PURGE
#22 – RITUAL/MODUS ANOMALI
#23 – V/H/S/2
#24 – MON AMI
#25 – EUROPA REPORT
#26 – BLIND ALLEY
#27 – MIDNIGHT SON
#28 – DEVIL’S PASS
#29 – COME OUT AND PLAY
#30 – THE LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH
#31 – I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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