*** out of ****
In an era where even most good summer movies stretch past 2 hours, it's nice to see a sleek, effective piece of genre fare like The Purge clock in at an hour and a half.
The movie takes place in the near future, where America is economically prosperous and devoid of crime. The reason for this turnaround is a 12-hour period where anything and everything is legal.Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) play a married suburban couple with 2 kids. Their plan is to barricade themselves in their house and ride out the night like they do every year.
Naturally, things don't go that smoothly.Writer/director James DeMonaco does a good job of gradually escalating the tension.Little music is used throughout the film, and DeMonaco makes excellent use of the dark house's ambient sounds to create tension.
While not exactly profound, the film does put forth some interesting points about how people are never truly safe no matter how much they try to isolate themselves from danger, as well as the disdain and hatred that lies beneath people's superficially polite exchanges.
Best of all, the film's ending works.Most horror movies either fall into a trap of providing audiences with a safe Hollywood ending or a sadistic "haha everyone dies horribly" ending (the cliched horror movie equivalent to a tacky happy ending in a romantic comedy).However, The Purge is admirably able to remain cynical without descending into misanthropy.