The Purge is a 2013 film directed and written by James DeMonaco.Twenty Minutes into the Future the US government has set up a once-a-year event named The Purge, in which people are free to commit whatever crimes they want for 12 hours. James Sandin, a well-to-do businessman who sells home security systems for people to protect themselves from the Purge, settles himself, his wife and his two children in for the night, arming the house and protecting it from any invaders...... Until a beaten-up stranger comes running down the street begging for help. After attempting to ignore him, one of the Sandin kids shuts down the security system long enough to let the stranger in. A gang of mask-wearing goons quickly arrives at the house, demanding the Sandins turn the stranger over, or they'll break in and kill everyone, including the stranger.The Purge has been described as "half social allegory, half home-invasion thriller." It explores the morality of human nature in a world where murder is seemingly condoned by not only the law, but the majority of its citizens as well; a disturbing, very dark take on the future. The Purge itself is treated as less of a necessary evil and more of a holiday.A sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, was released on July 18, 2014. It follows several people, including two teenagers as they are caught outside during the Purge when their car breaks down, and a man using the Purge as a chance to pursue revenge.
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Aborted Arc: Zoey's boyfriend pretty much disappears from the plot entirely after he's gunned down trying to kill James. Neither Zoey or the other family members ever bring it up again. But it's understandable, since they all have bigger problems to deal with.
Adult Fear: The Sandin parents have a lot to be worried about, because they're trying to set a good example for their kids by doing nothing bad during the Purge (while simultaneously reassuring them that the Purge is a good thing, and that they could participate if they wished to). That doesn't even touch on the fact that one of their kids lets in a stranger because he looked like he needed help or that a psychopathic gang is quite willing to launch a home invasion and kill everyone in it...
Because of the way the Purge works, the primary targets would primarily be the homeless, poor, and basically everyone working in the service industry. In other words, 80% of all employed and potential employees. This is also reflected in the stated one percent level of unemployment, which signifies a stagnating rather than booming economy. There would still be demand for employees, but very low supply, which drives wages up when businesses compete for employees, and then they are forced to raise prices of whatever they produce to pay these wages. Someone must have realized this (or read this page) when making the second film, because the unemployment number is bumped up to five percent.
The elderly would be quite vulnerable, which in turn could have negative effects on their incentives to save. Why save your money, when someone could potentially knock you off before you enjoy retirement? On the other hand, the government would save a huge amount on retirement and medical care.
A night with no emergency services running would see infrastructure damage of catastrophic proportions. With no fire fighters, fires would rage out of control, consuming whole blocks at the very least. Damage to crucial utilities such as water and power would go unrepaired. And that doesn't even take into account the possibility that disgruntled citizens would choose this night to wage an all-out assault on the government, consequences be damned; the Purge may have a stipulation for this possibility, but nothing stops people for arming themselves. Even if the main centres of power are protected, a lot of people with nothing to lose could cause untold damage to the country.
Ax-Crazy: All of the gang, but the women seem especially psychotic, with one of them tickling a pinned-down Mary moments before trying to slice her open with a machete.
Badass: James, big time! He's the sole reason that only he ends up dying during the attack. Why? Because he killed almost all the would-be murderer gang except for their boss.
Bad Boss: The gang leader kills one of his own for being rude, then uses this as an example to James of why it's in his best interest to find the homeless stranger.
Big Brother Is Watching: Given that live Purge feeds are apparently ubiquitous, it would seem there are a truly absurd number of cameras all across the United States. Furthermore, there are loudspeakers which broadcast the beginning of the Purge, in addition to Emergency Broadcast Services issuing a statement across radio and television. Despite doing things differently, the New Founding Fathers are an Anvilicious allegory to Big Brother and the Inner Party.
Big Damn Heroes: James gunning down an intruder before said intruder kills his son, Zoey saving her mother and brother from the gang leader and the homeless man saving the family from their neighbors.
Bond Villain Stupidity: One of the invaders follows Mary around for what has to be a good ten minutes or so, despite having a gun and the element of surprise. He doesn't even bother trying; Mary ends up running into another psycho later.
Broken Aesop: The overall story is about the "haves" getting to kill the "have-nots", in an attempt to relate to current movements like "Occupy Wall Street". In the end, the movie is about a bunch of greedy people barging into a place where they are not wanted, attacking a (mostly) peaceful rich family because they are jealous of what they have. Ummmm...
More like playing Devil's Advocate as the villains were quite well off themselves, the only "class envy" in the film is rich people resenting slightly richer people, and the point being that the same forces who oppress the "have nots" would go after the "haves" too if they could get away with it.
Bystander Syndrome: A man is running through the suburbs begging for help because a gang is after him. Mary Sandin isn't bothered by it, while James Sandin looks like he wishes he could help but he can't. The minute one of their kids lets him in is the minute it becomes their problem.
Camp Unsafe Isn't Safe Anymore: The Sandins think themselves safe when the gang threatens to invade, but James is forced to admit that the system was never designed to ward off such determined invaders and goes on to rattle off a series of vulnerabilities the security system has. Then the gang just rips the metal plating off using trucks. Several vulnerabilities indeed.
Catharsis Factor: In-universe, the government instituted the event named the Purge for this reason.
Crapsaccharine World: The USA in this film is portrayed as this, because everything is all well and good... except for the 12 hours of the Purge.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the movie is how casually the Purge, a government-sanctioned mass murder, is treated by the people. Early on in the movie, Grace gossips with Mary about the neighbors and gives her a batch of cookies she baked as the neighbors come up and ask Mary how she's spending her Purge night. At the same time, James casually discusses how effective the security system he sold another neighbor will be at keeping out murderers while said neighbor is walking his dog.
Cloud Cuckoolander: Charlie tinkers with unusual gadgets, spends his time in crawl spaces, and checks his vitals at the dinner table. These behaviors are never explained.
Combat Pragmatist: At one point, James smashes a billiard ball into the head of one of the attackers because it's the only weapon within reach. A couple of minutes later, he grabs an axe from another attacker and turns it against him.
Creepy Child: Charlie comes over as this, especially when asking why his parents don't go out and kill people. It certainly isn't helped by his closet space full of crazy which features several drawings of people dying and PURGE written in blood-red letters. Then there's "Timmy", a cyborg doll baby attached to a tank base and fitted with a camera. Charlie didn't make much effort to fix the damage he caused filling it with that stuff.
Ends up being subverted when he turns out to be the only family member willing to let a stranger in.
He also seems morally disgusted with the idea of the Purge.
Death by Sex: Subverted for Henry. He is implied to have had sex with Zoey at the start of the Purge. After this, he wants to meet her father to discuss the relationship. It turns out that he actually wanted to kill his girlfriend's father. And it epicly backfires so hard on Henry at the cost of his life.
Decoy Protagonist: James, who is killed by the Polite Leader just before the film ends.
Double Tap: James smashes one gang members' head into a pinball machine, and drives an axe into the back of another. He then shoots each of them with a shotgun, just in case. He also checks on the girl he shot earlier, but she's already dead.
Didn't Think This Through: Henry's attempt at using the Purge to "remove" his lover's disapproving father from the equation. If he's successful, does he really think his girlfriend will forgive such a thing? Or that her mother will allow him to walk away unharmed after killing her husband? Did he intend on killing her too if she interfered? There's basically no way he remains her boyfriend if he goes through with this. Henry fails to consider her father would be armed and worse still, willingly forgoes the element of surprise. His spectacular failure ends with him killed by his intended target.
Disproportionate Retribution The neighbors want to kill the Sandins because they remodeled their house ostentatiously using the money James earned from selling them his security system. And just in case you thought they might be pissed by its failure later on, it's made clear they resent them for it before the Purge even starts.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The movie can be read, as in this article for example, as turning certain elements of libertarian / modern conservative ideology Up to Eleven (particularly the 'every man for himself' aspects) and seeing what the consequences would be if they were actually applied. The fact that the main bad guys are a gang of preppy Young Republican types and their victim is a homeless black war veteran can't be an accident. Also the neighbors want to kill the Sandins for being richer than them. Word of God says it is intentional.
Downer Ending: Most of the family lives, but they're traumatized from what happened and probably won't be the same again, plus they have nobody to trust in their neighborhood after their neighbors tried to kill them. The ending rubs it in deeper by having news reports declaring it to be the most "successful" Purge yet, and that it will continue again next year.
Dissonant Serenity: The announcement made by the government to the people about the Purge makes it sound like it's just a minor, adjust-your-clock event. This contrasts starkly with the home invasion that occurs later on.
Early-Installment Weirdness: While there's technically only two "installments" so far, the sequel hooks in the second film all indicate that future additions will follow it's lead. This means that a Purge movie about wealthy people, with a cast made up almost entirely of white actors, will stick out like a sore thumb.
Epic Fail: Henry is quickly killed by his intended target in front of his girlfriend. After going out of his way to warn him, no less.
Expy: The "Polite Leader" is one of Alexander Delarge; an impish, almost adorable little boy with exasperatingly good manners and eloquent vocabulary that would make Shakespeare proud, and a penchant for murder vandalism and even rape while wearing a mask and an angelic smile.
False Utopia: The movie is set around an US that is well-recovered... but centered around the question "What if the US government created a once-a-year 12-hour event called The Purge, which allows people to do whatever they want?"
Fictional Political Party: The annual "Purge Night" holiday was established after the rise of a political party calling itself "The New Founders of America", or NFA for short.
From Bad to Worse: Everything started out normally for the Sandins. Then a stranger on the run ends up in their home. Finally, the psychopathic gang chasing after the stranger decides to invade their home. Then, after surviving that ordeal, they find out their neighbors have banded together to try and kill them.
Harmful to Minors: Having kids exposed to something like the Purge is a bad idea. The Sandin parents try to protect their kids from this, but they fail miserably, because Zoey ends up killing the gang leader to save her family.
He Who Fights Monsters: The Sandins change their minds and decide to fight the gang when they're in the middle of torturing the homeless man when he won't give himself up.
Hollywood Psych: The point of the Purge is to let people get all of their violence and anger out in a night of catharsis, thereby reducing crime. However, studies have shown that violent catharsis increases aggression, rather than reducing it; if anything, the Purge would increase violent crime rates. One of the few intentional examples since there are some implications that the Purge is ultimately having the opposite effect than the intended one throughout the film.
Honor Before Reason: One of the Sandin kids lets a stranger into their house because he really looks like he is in trouble. As a result of doing the morally right thing, horror ensues.
I Want Them Alive: The gang leader demands that the homeless man be released alive so that his gang can personally kill him. Later, when they are invading the house, he tells one of his gang members to "save" Zoe for him...
Idiot Ball: The Sandins leave the stranger tied up rather than passing him a weapon so he can help. Clearly it's in the man's best interest to help, and he does anyway upon freeing himself.
Karma Houdini: State-enforced with the Purge, during which almost all crime is sanctioned and emergency services are suspended. There's nothing stopping the Purge from working against the potential Houdinis.
The neighbors get off scot-free (save for one killed by the stranger) for trying to kill the Sandins. The leader, Grace, gets some form of karma when she makes one last grab for the shotgun and gets a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown courtesy of Mary.
The New Founding Fathers who started the Purge never paid for the chaos this created and to ensure they get away with it, one of the few rules reads "Government officials of ranking 10 or higher must remain unharmed for the duration of the Purge" meaning that they can't even be Hoist By Their Own Petard.
Kill the Poor: This is heavily implied to be the true purpose of the Purge, as is speculated by in a news report and put forth by the gang that hunts "homeless swine". Confirmed in the sequel.
Large Ham: The polite gang leader, played by Rhys Wakefield, has to be seen to be believed. Doug Walker, who referred to him as Henrynote Henry is actually the boyfriend, has called him the hammiest character he has probably ever seen.
Malevolent Masked Men: AND women, who are ironically the most brutal and sadistic of the gang. They gang wears the masks for psychological effect and to disguise themselves just in case anyone who survives them doesn't try to take revenge on them during the next Purge.
Market-Based Title: The film came out under the title "American Nightmare" in France; while in French the word "purge" usually has the same meaning as in English, it is also a familiar word for a painfully bad film (or show, or game). The title change hardly helped, and if anything rather made the joke even more obvious among French critics.
Murder the Hypotenuse: Well, sorta. Henry decides to murder James during the Purge, as James is quite opposed to Henry dating his daughter on account of being older than her (he's said to be 18).
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Letting a man on the run take refuge in your house is a good deed, no question. But when the psychopathic gang chasing after him decide to invade your home...
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: A scene early on in the film demonstrates a gang doing this to a person in a city. The gang that terrorizes the Sandins intends on doing this to them.
Also what Mary does to Grace at the end when Grace tries a last-ditch attempt to kill the Sandins.
No Name Given: We find out neither the name of the stranger the Sandins saved nor the names of any of the masked gang.
Obviously Evil: When a gang comes to your door wearing creepy masks, wielding weapons, and makes it clear that they want to kill one guy and they'll kill anybody who gets in the way, you get this trope.
Properly Paranoid: James chastises his son for letting a stranger, in need of help, inside their house since he suspects someone is after him. He's right.
Protect This House: As even with all the security improvements, the Sandin house is still invaded by the masked strangers.
The Purge: The trope name and the film's title are the same. The 12-hour event is called The Purge, and the intent behind it is to apparently get rid of the undesirable parts of society.
Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: To some extent. Part of the Purge conditions restricts weapons above Class 4 and makes government officials rated 10 or higher exempt. The former is probably to avoid too much collateral damage, and the latter, depending on what qualifies one for that rating, may simply be to ensure that there's a functioning government when things cool down. Though the fact they would be otherwise prime targets is a complete coincidence.
Villainous Rescue: The neighbours save the family from the intruders because they want to kill them themselves.
What the Hell, Hero?: James Sandin doesn't hesitate to yell at his kid for letting a stranger into their house, because they don't even know who's after him. It turns out that he has a point when the psychopathic gang turns up on their doorstep...
James himself is called out on the penetrable security system that he sells.
And again when he is about to give the homeless guy up to the gang to save his family, even getting his wife to torture him into submission. After Zoe does it too, he listens and lets the man go.
Arms Dealer: Shortly before the Purge, an arms dealer tries to sell guns and other weaponry to people walking by him, including Eva.
Asshole Victim: The strung-up banker who swindled people out of their pensions is a stand-out example.
Badass: Leo easily qualifies as this, mowing down through government death squad soldiers without a scratch, choking out other Purgers, and killing a number of rich people trying to kill him for sport.
Berserk Button: Getting in his way or trying to talk him down from seeking vengeance for his son's death seems to be one of the few things to make Leo lose his temper.
Big Damn Heroes: Contrary to what Eva's father said early on, the Resistance is the real deal, and their leader personally takes part in the raid on the wealthy Purgers, saving most of the protagonists from them in the process.
Big Damn Villains: The NFFA death squad breaks in and saves Eva and Cali from their drunken neighbor.
Continuity Nod: The stranger who survived the Sandins' ordeal turns up as a resistance member.
Dirty Coward: In addition to the usual gaggle of psychopaths running around the streets on Purge night, there are wealthy people who don't risk their lives going out to Purge. Instead people either sell themselves to be purged by a specific family for an exorbitant sum, as Eva's father does, or the wealthy attend big parties where potential victims are rounded up for them by other Purgers. The wealthy then bid on who will kill these victims, all within the safety of their fortified mansions. This backfires dramatically when one of these groups kidnap Leo and his friends, who not only put up one hell of a fight against the Purgers, but ultimately get rescued when the Resistance storms the mansion.
Escort Mission: From the moment Leo saves Eva and Cali from the NFFA death squad, he is on one of these for the remainder of the film.
Gatling Good: Each of the NFFA death squad trucks is outfitted with a mounted machine gun in the back.
Government Conspiracy: The New Founding Fathers don't think enough people are dying in The Purge, so they send murder squads to help out a bit.
Hobbes Was Right: Not so much. It turns out not enough citizens are actually willing to go out and kill their fellow human beings, so the government has to send out their own kill squads to rack up a higher body count. Not only this, but there is an entire organization devoted to fighting the NFFA and stopping the Purge.
Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: While the Purge does generally fit this trope, the wealthy bidders — who release captured victims into an arena and proceed to hunt them for sport — are a much closer fit.
It's Personal: Big Daddy, the NFFA death squad leader wounded by Leo, wants Leo, Eva, and Cali for himself. The former is because he rescued Eva and Cali, the latter because they would have been his personal kills if not for Leo's interference.
Karma Houdini: The bikers who have been spending the night abducting and selling people to be Purged aren't seen getting any comeuppance for their despicable actions. The rich lady who organized the Purge party for other wealthy people also gets to live, but at least Leo gets to force her to beg for her life.
Kill the Poor: Implied in the last film, elevated from subtext to text here. The NFFA death squads specifically target low-income housing.
Machete Mayhem: The favored weapon of the wealthy family who buy Eva's father as a martyr for their Purge, as well as the rich twins who participate in the hunt later in the movie.
Mexican Standoff: Cali, Eva, Warren, and two government goons have one at the finale, before the purge ends and the latter retreat.
Moral Myopia: The rich Purgers have poor people rounded up so they can be hunted for sport in a lopsided contest, but completely lose their cool when Leo turns the tables on them.
Mugging the Monster: Leo is rounded up with the rest of his group to be purged by the wealthy hunters. They bit off a bit more than they could chew with him.
Multiple Choice Past: The audience never quite finds out what Leo's past is. Cali assumes that he's either a cop or a criminal based on his proficiency with weapons. Towards the end, the government death squad leader's comments highly imply that Leo is either a cop, or a former member of the military.
My Car Hates Me: Two of the characters wind up in The Purge hours after their car breaks down right before sunset. This is because the bikers sabotaged it to make them easy to round up later.
Punch Clock Villain: It turns out the bikers are this. They're only hunting people because a group of rich people are buying victims from them.
Redemption Earns Life: At the end of the film Leo chooses to not kill the drunk driver who accidentally killed his son, and ultimately forgives him. The driver in question soon repays the favor by killing the paramilitary death squad leader who was about to kill Leo before the Purge finished.
Red Herring: When the group makes it to Tanya's house, Tanya's behavior is just off. She's far too chipper, she's putting away glass after glass of wine, Leo catches her popping pills of some kind, and she even jokes about purging. Then her quiet sister starts shooting people.
Religion of Evil: The Purge seems to have taken on religious significance to its supporters, with the frequent references to "releasing the beast in our souls" and "God Bless America". There even seems to be a pre-Purge prayer:
Blessed be our New Founding Fathers for letting us Purge and cleanse our souls. Blessed be America, a nation reborn.
At the end of the movie, Liz joins La Résistance after her husband Shane is killed, intent on getting revenge on those who organized The Purge.
Sequel Escalation: This film moves the story directly into the heart of The Purge rather than on the outskirts of it. It also extends the perspectives from just one family to several different groups (albeit coming together as the story goes on), as well as showing a wider array of antagonists, including the United States military and a gang of youths that capture civilians for an audience of wealthy people who then bid between each other for the chance to hunt the victims.
Sequel Hook: So much focus is put on the Resistance for what amounts to a cameo that it seems likely that this is their purpose.
Take That: While making their way through the banking district, they come across the corpse of a stock broker who allegedly swindled people out of their pensions. Shane muses that maybe this guy did deserve to be Purged.
Took a Level in Badass: The stranger, who was saved by the Sandins in the preceding film, turns up as a resistance member against the Purge.
Trailers Always Spoil: As with the first film, it spoils the fact that some of richer people actually bid on captured people so they can kill them.
You See, I'm Dying: The reason why Eva's father sells himself to be Purged by a wealthy family, with the money slated to go to his daughter and grand-daughter.
Your Cheating Heart: Tanya's sister uses the Purge to take vengeance on Tanya and her cheating husband.