The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The spirit is weak, but the flesh is willing. Let’s just substitute some of these words around and pretend we’re talking about a film franchise here ok? Let’s say that “spirit” is akin to “premise” and that “flesh” can be substituted for “movie studio”. Sometimes things just shouldn’t be – it just shouldn’t exist. Like raw tomatoes. Why? Because they’re just unpleasant and unnecessary. This can also be said of the need to make sequels to films that don’t lend themselves to sequels because they wrapped themselves up rather neatly at the end of the first instalment. Hell, even films that left loose ends like District 9 haven’t even spawned a sequel (why, Neil Blomkamp, why?!)… so you’ve got to question why it was necessary to make a sequel to last year’s The Purge in the form of The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The Purge was a neat enough film. It didn’t blow us away here, but it worked – take a look at our review where we gave it a Phage Factor of 3/5. As I say, it was good, but had multiple flaws and didn’t really bring us any terror. It told the story of a family that had barricaded themselves into their home during the annual “purge” where for one night the US has no laws and people are free to rape and murder who they want but with no legal reprisals. The story wrapped up. There were no loose ends. So… naturally… The Purge: Anarchy just decides to base itself around the same “purge night” with an entirely different cast to attempt to string together a story by clumsily weaving three / four different stories together to tell something new.

Here, we focus on three groups of individuals that for one reason or another must band together when they find themselves on the streets during the annual purge; they don’t have the safety of a house to hide in, they must fend for themselves. These folks include Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo and Zach Gilford, amongst others, but honestly none need to be circled out, as they’re all relatively bland characters. Essentially, they must fight against the night to survive. Whilst you, the viewer, must fight against the urge to sleep or get annoyed at the writers attempting to shoehorn in an overarching storyline that will inevitably lead to The Purge 3

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

You’re probably already getting the impression that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Purge: Anarchy. You’d be correct. It just didn’t excite me in any real way beyond its premise. And indeed, that excitement mainly stemmed from the “home invasion” style of the first instalment, something that is abandoned in favour of wandering the city streets with our motley crew (I must stop spelling that as Motley Crue!). Frankly, this style just didn’t work too well and didn’t play out as this movie being a “horror” movie. It almost degraded into a by-the-numbers action movie with people moving from place to place, firing a gun a couple of times, then carrying on moving.

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

However, what really startled me and led me to become annoyed were the flagrant attempts to establish a “lore” that would allow The Purge: Anarchy¬†to continue beyond this second film. There’s a lot of mention of a “resistance”… so it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out where the franchise is going next. It’s inevitable that this will continue much in the same way that Saw and Paranormal Acticity had / have done. Saying that, at least those two films finished their first instalment on something of a cliffhanger with an obvious “to be continued” vibe to them. The Purge didn’t and this film, plus its subsequent instalements all smell faintly of “cash grab”, which is a shame. I liked the first film, I really did. But I couln’t see how it was going to be continued. And now I see why that was.

Ultimately, if you hadn’t guessed already, The Purge: Anarchy is the film that ne’er should have been. It’s “ok” by modern standards for sure, but it’s no longer a horror movie, or even a thriller. No, it’s taken itself down the action route with few thrills and chills to be had. The premise of the film still remains interesting, but the potential to outstay its welcome has already arisen by the second instalment. This is something that didn’t really hit other forced franchises such as Paranormal Activity or Saw until the 4th outing. Mind you, even those films have gone on.. and on… and on… So who knows, maybe this will pick up?

Yes, the flesh truly is as weak as the spirit on this one. Its dragging itself through the city streets whilst the ominous blast of the air raid siren rings through the air to mark the beginning of the annual purge. Indeed, if The Purge: Anarchy¬†was personified it would be sitting in the middle of the street armed with only a spork and a half eaten tin of baked beans: it wouldn’t fight for long…

Phage Factor:

2 Stars

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The Purge (2013)

The Purge (2013)

At Film Phage, we like it when a film has a lofty premise; something that at least attempts to distinguish it from the rest of the crowd. This is especially needed in the constantly stagnating “horror” genre. We’ve had found footage, gore-porn, LOUD NOISES and a host of other techniques attempt to make us squirm in our seats. But The Phage always stuggles… possibly because we have no emotions – we’re a cold, emotionless wretch destined to wander the Earth like some shambolic zombie-Phage. Or, it could be that no new “idea” has been that terrifying. Having said that, we do like a bit of sustained menace in our films… something to keep the tension up… so, is The Purge up to the task at hand? And just what do The Purge and The Phage have in common? Read on…

The Purge has a nice enough premise to it. By “nice”, I actually mean quite monstrous, but well thought up. Essentially, in the US of 2022, July 5th is Purge Day. Between 7pm and 7am, the residents of the US are free to commit any crime they like – murder, theft, mutilation… anything they like, and not be charged with a thing. It’s said that this is meant to “purge” people of their criminal urges and malicious intents. But don’t expect any help if you’re attacked; there’s no police, no ambulances and no assistance coming until 7am. The result? Super low unemployment and low crime rates. So, of course, the film is mainly set on the aforementioned night when it all kicks off…

The Purge (2013)

At its centre, we follow the Sandin family – clearly upper-middle class, successful and benefiting from the purge; mainly owing to James (Ethan Hawke), who sells the security systems that people come to rely on. So on lock down in 2022, it’s just him, his wife Mary (Lena Headey), and his two children Charlie (Max Burkholder) and Zoey (Adelaide Kane)… or so he thinks. But things certainly go awry when the young, morally conflicted Charlie sees a man pleading for help outside the shutters of the Sandin homestead. He decides to open the doors and let this stranger in… on a night when anything goes. Can the family remain so passive and not indulge in the orgy of violence that they’d ordinarily sit out of?

I genuinely like the concept. I think it’s got some lofty ambition and the social commentary runs through the entire film. What is the real reason for the purge: the release of hatred, or an excuse to kill the lower classes that can’t afford to lock themselves away? It’s an interesting question and I found myself enthralled by the developing tale… up until the end of the first act. After this point, it all became a little too… dull.

The Purge (2013)

The opening is strong, and I definitely bought into the premise, but once we get to the moment where the monumentally dumb Charlie lets a stranger into his house, the film started to fall apart a little. We have some mild tension creep in here, then the threat level is elevated somewhat when others come looking for the sheltered man, but the film never induces terror. I’d be hard-pushed to call it a “moderate level of threat” to be honest. If you want to see a similar film with ramped up tension, then check out the fabulous French horror film Them (or Ils, if you want to be all French about it). Want a British take on the grim face of terror? Then try Eden Lake. I’d even argue My Little Eye from years ago makes more of a go of it. But The Purge? I’d skip on by if you’re looking for any modicum of fear to be evoked.

The problems with the film are in no way due to the acting talents of Hawke and the always-reliable¬†Headey, who definitely carry the film for the duration. Their performances are solid and do exactly what’s expected of them. As some will know, this isn’t Hawke‘s first foray into horror, following on from last year’s LOUD NOISES fest, Sinister. I’d argue that whilst The Purge is more grounded in reality (something that should elicit worry and anxiety from the audience), Sinister had more scares to it. And considering the scare quota of Sinister was about 4, you’re getting an idea of how “scary” this film is. Having said that, you can’t escape how genuinely creepy Rhys Wakefield is in his antagonist role… that smile below… it’s what you’ll take from this movie!

The Purge (2013)

Perhaps the main problem with The Purge is the fact that it bills itself as a horror movie. The studio took the wrong angle here. They’d have been better off playing it out as a thriller. That, or they should have jacked up the jump levels. Sure, I’m glad they didn’t resort to cheap loud noises, but they needed something there. A lofty plot and interesting premise can only carry a film for so long.

Ultimately, The Purge didn’t purge me of my desire to be scared. It still persists. The opening 30 minutes of the film are great, grizzly and thought-provoking, but after that we’re subjected to a rather timid example of “stalkers in a house” – something that has been done to death since… well, since forever. So whilst I must applaud James DeMonaco on writing an interesting idea, it’s a shame it wasn’t more fleshed out from beginning to end.

So, back to the opening… what do The Purge and The Phage have in common? Are we prone to violent outbursts? Do we peak too soon and get really boring the more you read on (don’t answer that!)? Or do we just share a smattering of letters in common? I’d like to think it’s just the last of these options… unless you steal a slice of our pizza… You don’t wanna make a Phage mad now…

Phage Factor:

3 Star