The setting is America in 2022, a disturbing dystopia where the prisons are even more overcrowded than we find them today. Consequently, the overwhelmed authorities have come up with a unique way of dealing with crime, namely, designating one night a year on which the rule of law is suspended, and anything is legal, even murder.
The idea is that, with the cops turning their heads the other way, armed vigilantes can indulge their bloodlust and dispense justice simultaneously, thereby doing society a favor by ridding the streets of vermin. However, this means that it isn't safe to be outside during that very dangerous 12-hour period known as The Purge.
For that reason, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) has carefully barricaded his family inside its heavily-fortified mansion. Besides outfitting the house with a state of the art security system, the wealthy homeowner has purchased a couple of guns just in case an intruder still manages to break in post-lockdown.
But that seems highly unlikely once James punches in the computerized code, thereby dropping bulletproof steel shields over all the windows and doors. As the 7 p.m. siren signals the start of the gruesome festivities, he settles down with wife Mary (Lena Headey), son Charlie (Max Burkholder) and daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) in front of a bank of video surveillance monitors to watch whether anyone attempts to enter the premises.
What they didn't bargain for was Zoey's boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller) hiding in her bedroom, or the sight of a wounded, homeless black man (Edwin Hodge) on the perimeter of the premises begging for sanctuary from a bloodthirsty mob. Soon, the boundary is irreversibly breached when kindhearted Charlie lets the stranger inside at a moment of weakness, leading to a terrifying ordeal that lasts till dawn.
So unfolds The Purge, a futuristic horror flick written and directed by James DeMonaco (Little New York). His riveting thriller plays much bigger than a picture shot on a relatively-modest budget of just $3 million.
Be ready to scream at the top of your lungs in response to the spine-tingling fare cleverly edited to make you jump out of your seat when you least expect to. Meanwhile, the picture proves to be equally thought-provoking, given the philosophical questions it raises via a most unusual method of social engineering.
A cerebral screamfest certain to give you goosebumps.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity and disturbing violence
Running time: 85 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures