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Movie Review

The Purge also known as “Vigilandia”

MPAA Rating: R for strong disturbing violence and some language.

Reviewed by: Brian C. Johnson

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Sci-Fi Horror Crime Thriller
1 hr. 25 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 7, 2013 (wide—2,400+ theaters)
DVD: October 8, 2013
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

Why are many people violent?

sin and the Bible

depravity of man / fall of man to sin

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer

murder in the Bible


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Featuring: Lena HeadeyMary Sandin
Ethan HawkeJames Sandin
Tony Oller … Henry
Max Burkholder
Adelaide Kane … Zoey
Edwin Hodge
Rhys Wakefield
more »
Director: James DeMonaco
Producer: Blumhouse Productions
Platinum Dunes
more »
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“One night a year, all crime is legal. Survive the night.”

Sequel: “The Purge: Anarchy” (2014)

What would you do if there were no rules, no laws, and no repercussions for the next twelve hours?

This is the premise of “The Purge,” written and directed by James DeMonaco (“The Negotiator”). Set in the not too distant future, the government has instituted an annual program to control the most antisocial among us. Called The Purge, the government grants permission and amnesty for individuals to rage and pillage—even maim and kill—to let our primal urges run amuck for exactly twelve hours. In true Darwinian fashion, only the strong will survive.

Ethan Hawke returns to a darker character, much like his 2012 movie, “Sinister,” and plays James Sandin, a builder of security systems designed to protect families from the annual killing spree. Sandin and his family live on a veritable compound, and are whiling away the evening, seemingly safe from the melee that is occurring outside. When his son, Charlie, notices a man who has been wounded during the fighting and brings him into the house, the Sandin sanctuary becomes the target of attention of a horde that is bent on mayhem and harm.

Let’s just cut to the chase. The whole premise of this film should make the Christian viewer squirm (anyone with a heart, really). There should be no question in anyone’s mind that this film is ultra-violent—it is a government sanctioned killing spree, after all. Blood and gore are everywhere! There are some attempts to shield the viewer, but moments later brains and entrails are abounding. Bad language and sensuality are present—par for the course for films like these.

On a philosophical note, though, the film raises important questions that we as Christians should be thinking about and processing. The Purge rests upon the 19th century “nature vs. nurture” debate. The 2022 governmental leaders suggest that since we are all animals anyway, shouldn’t we just succumb to our basest instincts? This is the essence of the necessity of living, not by man’s ideas or morality, but by the authority and Word of God. Jeremiah 17:9 declares the wickedness of man’s hearts, and it is essential to have a changed heart and mind. (Perhaps our leaders in 2013 need to learn this lesson now!)

There are some good messages here. Charlie seems to be operating from the biblical story of the Good Samaritan; he saw the man had been harmed and wanted to help. Mary Sandin (Lena Headey—“The Brothers Grimm,” “300”) has a choice to remember her humanity as she is faced with killing her own would-be killers—what would YOU do? These are good messages, and certainly there is some theological fodder here, but, honestly, you need not watch this movie to have these types of conversations. Stay home and read your Bible. Join a small group study. Go to church. Your time will be much better spent.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:


Neutral—From where I sit, “The Purge” is just a big-budget rehash of the premise from an episode from Star Trek: The Original Series, which was called “The Return of the Archons.” Not very original, and not particularly edifying (except for the kindness of Charlie). I did enjoy the score, though—kind of a dark ambient affair for the most part, very atmospheric, worth a download from iTunes if you’re into that kind of thing.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Progpariah77, age 50 (USA)
Negative—“The Purge” is a perfect example of an intriguing concept that could have been handled so much better. The concept that, once a year for 12 hours all crime is legal and actually encouraged will be regarded by many as preposterous. However, I went open-minded and managed to buy the whole idea. It’s a very interesting one that could have allowed for a truly shocking and realistic horror film with a message on humanity’s fascination/obsession and tendency towards violent behaviour.

Unfortunately it comes short in almost every area, with a few good moments here and then. After having been pleasantly surprised by last year’s “Sinister,” which also starred Ethan Hawke (an actor I hadn’t seen much of until then), I was looking forward to this movie, seeing that it is produced by the same guy, Jason Blum (“Paranormal Activity” and “Sinister”). Ethan Hawke is a terrific actor, and he does a fine job here as James Sandin, a father and husband trying to keep his family safe from the psychopaths trying to get into their house. He managed to pull my attention whenever he was on-screen, regardless of what else was happening.

Lena Headey is also convincing as his wife and they both had good chemistry. The film starts off very well with some striking and realistic imagery that’s bound the make most people uneasy. But within those first 15 minutes, we are also introduced to the daughter and her boyfriend: terrible dialogue and bad acting ensue, making the film feel like your average teen-slasher-horror flick.

The teenage son is also annoying, serving only to advance the plot and make continuous stupid decisions throughout the movie, and here lies the film’s biggest problem: characters do stupid things that no sensible, intelligent human being would do in such a situation. 9 times out of 10, children/teenagers are a very VERY bad thing in a horror film. I know I come back to this film a lot here, but “Sinister” worked so well because the family unit there worked, and I personally cared for the characters. No idiotic teenagers causing more trouble by wandering off into danger, no cringy dialogue, and the main focus being on the more mature characters. Here the focus is equally divided, if not more on the younger characters who end up being unlikeable, something that is a disaster in this genre of film.

I even liked what the director attempted to do in the second half of the movie. It turns from a man-hunt to a fight for survival once the psychos manage to get into the house and violence ensues. Without spoiling anything, the events that follow don’t do the film any justice at all and the film fell flat.

Now, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained during this movie. There are some kills that come out of nowhere and made my jaw hit the floor, and some intense (and well-filmed for that matter) scenes particular one fight involving Ethan Hawke versus five crazies which was both intense and brutal. But these were too few and far between to make me forget about the terrible acting (the two excellent leads aside, there are some truly horrific performances here, trust me!), mediocre script and horrible twist at the end, and this is such a shame because the film had so much potential.

Maybe if Scott Derrickson had directed… It’s already been confirmed that a “Purge 2” is in the works seen the admirable box office numbers. Hopefully the scope will be expanded and next time round we’ll get to see more of the actual purge itself. What if the next film followed a family somehow trapped in the middle of city whilst chaos is going on around them?

With a better script, NO teens and a bigger scope, I would pay to see more from this universe because it’s such a great setting that’s just lost in a generic horror film. Violence: 7/10 (not overly bloody but brutal nonetheless) Language: 7/10 (two to three f-words, and three religious exclamations) Sex-Nudity: 4/10 (one ten second fully-clothed scene). Overall, I give “The Purge” 5.5/10
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—James, age 21 (United Kingdom)
Negative—I went to see this movie last night with my husband and our friend who is visiting on leave from the Navy. I was reluctant to see it, because the preview alone was frightening to me. But I was also curious about the premise and wondered what type of social commentary the film might have. While the movie does have some positive elements, such as being a good Samaritan and not taking revenge (even when people seemingly deserve it), these concepts can be explored without one having to endure such a violent and disturbing movie. I found the idea of people just running around killing each other to “purge” or get the violence out of their systems to be frightening, but also extremely dumb, because I don’t think humans work like that.

I don’t believe one night of unhindered, legalized violence a year would keep mankind from harming and killing each other for the rest of the 364 days of the year. I also don’t think murder and violence is something we can ever “purge” ourselves from as a society, without the help of God. A society full of individuals who know and follow after the Lord is the only one in which violence, hatred, jealousy and crime could ever be fully purged.

While the movie definitely doesn’t paint the purge in a positive light, and does show how selfish humans are often only concerned with their own interests and well-being, it does it in a way that is way too violent, over-the-top, and unbelievable. I think if the concept behind this movie would have unraveled in a way that could have been suspenseful and more thought-provoking, instead of resorting to cheap horror thrills, it would have been much more worthwhile.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Nicole, age 28 (USA)
Negative—I feel with everything that is going on in the world today people need to wake up.and pay close attention to our government. This movie is a message to all, just look at all the movies they’re coming out with; all of them have something to do with destruction getting rid of half the population. Telling people to turn in their guns, so people won’t have no fire power to fight back, martial law is coming when you watch tv violence, the government don’t want peace, they want war. All these movies they’re coming out with has a message. WAKE UP AMERICA, you think the purge was something; you just don’t know what they have in store for us!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Terry, age 23 (Canada)
Movie Critics

…As home-invasion stories go, this one’s in the cellar… Once the carnage begins, “The Purge” abandons any notions of humanity or morality. … “The Purge” is nothing more than a vigilante revenge fantasy—one group of unpleasant people shooting at another group of unpleasant people. …
—Chris Hewitt, St. Paul Pioneer Press

…The movie doesn’t directly point fingers at political conservatives, but Mr. DeMonaco deploys the satire about God ‘n’ Guns with such cumulative heavy handedness, that the target, so to speak, becomes obvious. (The emblem of the New Founding Fathers looks a lot like one for the National Rifle Association, complete with a gun-toting eagle.) The message just gets louder and louder, cruder and cruder…
—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

…Thudding shocks and predictability dull the edge of this futuristic horror movie. …
—Leslie Felperin, Variety

…“Purge” this social experiment from your to-do list… [2 out of 4]
—Claudia Puig, USA Today

…instead of being a creepy B-movie about the necessity of suppressing one’s animalistic urges, “The Purge” is just an uninspired film. … [1½ out of 4]
—Simon Abrams, Chicago Sun-Times

…Gimmicky chiller lacks the robustness and distinction needed to support its social-commentary ambitions. … a sequence of bloody torture, perhaps inspired by the maltreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghrai…
—Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter

…The world we encounter in “The Purge” has attempted to set aside any morality rooted in God’s presence. We need not abide by any higher law, the new founding fathers say. The law is ours to make. We are animals. Therefore we must allow ourselves to act like animals. …
—Paul Asay, Plugged In

…the “New Founding Fathers” (read: Tea Party) have ushered in a “rebirth” of American prosperity by instituting an annual “purge” when all laws, including the crime of murder, are suspended for 12 hours of mayhem. … With most of the scares coming from poorly executed shock cuts, this makes the film seem far longer than its abbreviated running time. … [2 out of 4]
—Lou Lumenick, New York Post

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