Franchise Marathon No. 2: The Purge (2013 - Present)
Updated: Aug 13
In an unexpected deviation from normalcy The Purge goes from mid-level mediocre 2010’s horror one-off to full franchise with five movies (a sixth on the way with no end in sight) and two seasons of a show I re-watch rather often. Even with that aside, The Purge is more relevant today than at the time of the 2013 release. In 2013 we lived in day-to-day ordinary with some tragic (and often preventable) events punctuating different seasons. Now, I don’t remember what it is like to be ignorant of world news, and I’m always ready to march to protect often threatened and disregarded rights (I’m obviously pro-choice and this is a pro-choice blog). Black directors are acknowledged for their brilliance publicly with sought after awards and we don’t stiffen when we see a stereo-typed black character in a movie who we know will be killed because we have moved for the most part past that.
The Purge (2013) came out my junior year of high school and I couldn’t wait to use my ID that allowed me to enter those theaters. I recall being excited that a new R-rated horror movie had a release date but I also recall I had no interest in watching a black man struggle for two hours next to people in my majority white town. I felt that he’d be a great character who would sacrifice himself in order to save the middle class white family from their fucked up neighbors. I don’t believe I am the only one who watched in surprise as that didn’t happen. Now, not all black characters faced trauma and death in horror movies but so many had up until that point that it became expected, a joke even (I often make those jokes). Don’t get me wrong, the first installment in the Purge series is full of horror tropes, and poor decision making on behalf of the characters. So imagine my surprise when I not only liked the movie but appreciated and respected the political undertones, especially for that time and in this genre.
Most to Least Favorite:
First - Election Year (2016)
Fourth - Anarchy (2014)
Fifth - The Purge (2013)
Life may or may not have gotten in the way during this week's endeavor. This post is not as fleshed out as I'd like it to be and I still need to give The Purge: Election Year (2016) the flowers it deserves before the series end.
THE PURGE (2013) - FIFTH PLACE
A wealthy family in 2013 living in an upper-class neighborhood are prepared for the annual purge with a normal night in. This is set up as a normal scene in this new dystopian world where every year for one night all crime is legal, including murder, and everyone goes apeshit.
A homeless man running and yelling down the street wounded while being hunted is met with quiet houses as he makes his pleas for a safe place to spend the purge. This points to the class disparity of who are the victims and who are the perpetrators during each purge in a “digestible by audiences of 2013” way that later becomes a stellar, fascinating, and timely focal point of the franchise.
The only character aside from the “Bloody Stranger” (as the amazing Edwin Hodge’s character is so lovingly titled) I have respect for at the beginning of this movie is the child who brings the alarm system down in order to let Hodge inside. Once Hodge is inside the family faces off tensely in the foyer which kicks off the film’s chain of events with the teen daughter’s too-old-for-her boyfriend attempting to shoot her father. Instead of hitting and killing him he himself catches a bullet and shortly after succumbs to his injury.
The main events of this movie actually focus on multiple groups however not just this main family and the stranger who’s taken refuge in their home. The problem is Hodge escaped a group of murderous wealthy white supremacist evangelicals who now require they return Hodge to them or they’ll bust into the home and kill everyone. They let us know that they gotta purge and that they don’t want to kill other wealthy purge loving people but they’ll do their patriotic duty no matter what. They, for lack of a better word suck, and I always get annoyed that the main purge costumes are the masks of what is basically the more radicalized MAGA republicans side but I digress.
Everything from that point on goes as one would expect, back and forth between the two sides with Hodge caught in the middle, the boy uses his gadget to create suspense and help Hodge hide, and the family has a plan to find, capture, and hand over Hodge. The whole time I kept thinking about Cersei Lannister and how she is a ‘fierce, Ford-tough, mama bear’ and I wanted that energy from the mom (we get that later on, don’t worry).
They catch Hodge and proceed to duct tape him while torturing him into submission with the intention of sending him outside. After the teen daughter wakes up and calls them out everyone decides they won’t send Hodge out there (even after Hodge himself breaks down and offers to be sent out in order to save the kids) and that becoming the very people they’re defending from right now is worse than dying having done the right thing. The security system is revealed to be worthless and that the dad has been selling them like they’re the shit to unsuspecting customers…his neighbors included.
The mask-wearing republicans and the family go back and forth with the bad guys and the dad bleeds out. Their neighbors save them but surprise, motherfucka! the neighbors don’t like their asses and want revenge on the family for becoming wealthy by selling them security systems and then “flaunting their wealth” by improving their home with said money. It’s some weird wealthy people hating on rich people and being jealous bullshit. As if all of the houses on the street aren’t mansions at the very least suggesting they probably weren’t financially ruined by the security scam and have money to sue. They’re the same kind of people that whine about the country uniting now despite being evil and violent as fuck to “the other side” for the past century.
The family grows on me after they overcome the urge to send a man to a violent execution for no reason and at the end the family minus James, most of the neighbors, and Hodge survive the purge and go about their business. We are left with news reports of the purge being more successful than ever and a resulting stock market boom which has me just nodding and agreeing that that would be what it is like post purge, as if it’s business as usual because for them it is.
THE PURGE: ANARCHY (2014) - FOURTH PLACE
The year is 2023 and Donald Talbot is the new founding father of America. We are taken out of the neighborhood and into the city for this installment. A waitress who has to field sexual advances far too often for comfort, a pregnant couple who is clearly on the rocks prepping for the purge, a radical group (co-led by Hodge from the first movie who we learn is named Dante Bishop) who have recognized that the purge is used to kill people in poverty while planning to protect their communities and others who the wealthy consider “undesirable” by their measure being watched by the waitress’ daughter and father, and a mercenary prepping for the night.
This year is the year that the radical group has been calling on people to stock weapons in order to fight back and against the facist group in charge. My heart actually broke when I saw the grandfather getting into a fancy car service vehicle and I recalled that he sold himself to be killed in the purge in order to make money his family needs. The fighting couple’s car breaks down and they swerve off the road right as the purge is about to begin meaning no one will come get them and no one will stop for them, they’re stuck outside downtown. They for some idiotic reason felt the need to wait to shop until mere hours before the purge and do said shopping in a known purge-heavy area. I don’t feel bad for them. This scene is the main promo footage used to get people psyched about the next installment in the franchise.
This film shows us more of the universe and the possibilities when it comes to the purge. Flame throwers, converted buses for drive bys, and even a machine gun in the back of a semi-truck. It’s easy to tell that the creative minds behind this film had a plethora of ideas about what the purge could look like for different people, both those purging and those defending themselves, and wanted to bring as many as possible to life.
The daughter learns that her grandfather has left and left a note explaining that he’s sold his life to a wealthy family in order for them to purge. The waitress, Eva, explains to her daughter, Cali, that the wealthy people purge by buying sick and desperate people in order to remain safe, which Cali then realizes confirms the radical groups teachings and callings. Just as this horrifyingly sad moment is reaching a fever pitch, they hear banging and an angry man from earlier who denied his advances has chosen to get what he believes is deserved revenge. He gives a very red pill reminiscent speech that it is his right, ordained by the new fathers, to purge and he deserves to get his justice because he isn’t entitled to her attention and respect due to being a man that wants her. This feels even more relevant today with the increasing violence and hatred against womxn as well as rights being denied or stripped away around the world. He is luckily killed but not so luckily a hired militia of assholes has broken into their building and plan to take residents to purge. We are now exposed to what living near the poverty line looks like in this dystopia that parallels our own; imminent danger at any moment for no reasons other than cruelty and hatred. A few hours pre-purge everyone had relative politeness with one another but once the purge has begun we are watching a war zone and what can only be described as crimes of war, just without the sanctioned war.
Our mercenary on his revenge tour comes across the mother and daughter pair and involves himself after hearing their pleas for help. The stupid couple is also nearby and manages to involve themselves with our crew, making our main group for the movie finally come together. They judge him for being out with the intention to purge despite him saving them all without asking for anything in return. Of course, because this is a movie and the show must go on, now his tricked out car breaks down after sustaining minor damage. Again I ask why no one thought to ensure their cars they intended to drive along the purge streets were better equipped to handle purge like behavior. He has business to attend to and they are whiners who want him to keep protecting them even after he gives them guns. They convince him by exchanging his protection for a vehicle to get to his destination if they can get him to Eva’s friend’s place.
Much of the mid-section in the film shows various purge activities and motivations while our five-some makes it through the city, for example a greedy banker’s body strung up by chains outside of a bank with a sign indicating the purpose of the display. One thing is apparent, even the middle and lower class purge participants are disgruntled with the system and their lives, no one but maybe the top 10% seem to win. No surprise, the government, specifically the new founding fathers, is involved and at the very least hiring militia to target groups on purge night in order to control the population both in size and behavior. It’s clear that the team behind The Purge franchise are getting their stride and discovering what the secret sauce of the collective installments can and will be, the focus on the parallel politics and current events to our own.
Though Cali is supposed to represent a younger, slightly naive 17 year old in this universe and she talks the most sense, is the most morally clear, and has conviction. It reminds me of how I view Gen-Z (despite sometimes being included in Gen-Z’s age breakdown at times I still consider myself in between Millennials and Gen-Z) that they’re not naive but actually have this shit figured out far better than their elders who created the mess in the first place. The fact that this film takes place in 2023 is poignant and ahead of the opinions in 2014 as far as predicting the future state of the world and what younger citizens of it would be like.
One question: what’s with flame throwers and flames in general in this installment? Also, despite having never shot a gun let alone a machine gun before, the woman from the idiot couple can effectively fire, aim, and kill a group of attackers? Sure The Purge: Anarchy sure. Downtown is simultaneously quiet and deadly with the government sponsored militia using traffic cams to target our group of survivors. We get to the place and finally our group has refuge from the Purge happening outside.
Unfortunately some of the guests at the safe guarded apartment aren’t as anti-Purge as one would hope, including an unhinged woman who machine gunned the air down just hours earlier. Idiot couple redeems themselves by catching her lie about having not purged earlier. The festivities of the night typically include dinner and drinks and hunkering down with one’s family but there’s some shit going down in this house at this celebration. The lying purge participant shoots up the party, killing her sister due to her sister and husband having an affair. Another great example of a likely purge scenario of a family party turning to family revenge.
This puts our group back onto the Purge streets with no plan, no vehicle, and more injuries sustained due to the shoot out in the apartment. They’re then taken by the group from the start of the film that messed with the couple’s car. Surprise again, they don’t intend to kill them but rather sell them and the leader is the well renowned actor LaKeith Lee Stanfield which is a fun cameo. They’re taken onto the stage at a gala type event offering wealthy participants the opportunity to bid on their captives to purge. One head is $200k which is rather insulting that the value of a human life is that low and we get a fun little look into what the uber rich do on the Purge night, even what modern military grade weapons that the guests can choose from to use on the hunting grounds. The event attendees like to watch more than participate which is somehow even more frustrating. Again, I am not surprised, just disappointed that it makes so much sense.
More fighting, more darkness, more night vision, more action sequences, and more guns. Led to believe that it’s it for the group of survivors for another go around, desperately wanting the purge night to end at this point for their and my sake as a viewer. Now, the most interesting thing that happens during the film takes place at the very end, our boy Bishop is back baby and he and his squad have crashed the party to take out the evil rich overlords. It’s giving Black Panthers berets and all and a Malcom X figure in the form of Carmello. I love that they’re essentially eating the rich but without cannibalism. Just standing up for what’s right and helping stop the purge by any means necessary. Unfortunately the most interesting thing ends less than 10 minutes after it starts with the survivors getting out of there and the resistance group moving forward on the group of rich purgers.
We are stuck following the group when where I want to be is with Bishop. They steal the announcer lady’s car in order to get to his purge destination and the rest is mostly irrelevant, he decides not to get revenge for his son, is shot, one of the militia dudes gives a monologue only to be shot and killed by the man who he spared, and then the purge ends as they head to the hospital to save Leo. A boring group (minus Cali) with sad purge stories.
One of my main critiques of this movie is that a lot of nothing happens for a really long time. There’s not just clips of them running, there’s minutes. They aren’t just hiding in the dark for a moment, but for such a long time the fear dissipates rather than builds. I found myself half interested a lot of the time due to the characters not being wholly compelling as a group. Do I root for them? Of course, but do I also not understand why we needed so much filler? Also yes. I could’ve gone without a good 30 minutes of the movie in the middle.
Everytime I paused to do something else, how much time I had left shocked me. Why is there so much more of the film?! All that needs to be said has been said as far as this group and the 2023 Purge goes. It’s a regular purge night which is fine, I mean the two whole seasons of the show do a great job of making one purge night that isn’t different in any significant way from the others interesting by making the story and characters interesting, this installment falls short of that endeavor. What I wanted more of is the resistance movement to the purge which the movie flirts with but cannot commit to.
THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (2016) - FIRST PLACE
The reaction to this movie should have been a sign about the future of our own version of America. Not only did people become more excited than ever but they weren’t excited about what the intended message is, they were excited because they themselves wanted to purge. This go around I found myself in a theater surrounded by frat boy types and pick-me women who just wanted an excuse to cosplay Call of Duty. I ended up loving that this is finally the installment I wanted, the installment I didn’t know I needed and the official full-fledged turn of the tide for the franchise. This particular installment deserves a much deeper dive so stayed tuned. If you're going to watch one though it should be this one.
THE FIRST PURGE (2018) - TIE FOR SECOND PLACE
The First Purge (2018) is by far my favorite of the Purge movies. I loved that this installment didn’t beat around the bush. It straight out said the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) are racist, classist, extremists who used a sociologist's best (but sorely misguided) intentions in order to enact cruelty and hatred. I remember thinking, “Wow, murder is what most people choose to do when all crime is legal?” when watching the other movies but this one answered my question fully. It not only answered questions I had been aware of but it also answered ones I hadn’t even thought of yet, like how something like the Purge being an enacted holiday could happen in the first place.
This film opens in 2014 to a dystopian parallel universe to our own, similar problems like inflation and housing crisis plague society but the NFFA has a plan to change all of that and take the credit and power that comes along with doing such. The actual first purge takes place in 2016 (the irony is not lost on me, as this mirrors our own downfall that began in 2016). The NFFA and Dr. May Updale (the sociologist from earlier) chose Staten Island as the test zone, offering $5,000 for residents to remain in Staten Island during the experiment with more money for those that purge. Not only this but we get some non-existent tech, contact lenses that will record how the purge experiment is going. This also allows the NFFA to ensure that no one leaves the island.
We meet Dmitri who is a drug dealer looking to survive the purge undetected (smart man). Despite his commands to not participate some of his crew decide to purge regardless. We also meet Dmitri’s ex-girlfriend, Nya, and her younger brother, Isaiah. Nya is an anti-purge activist so I’m obviously team Nya. They hunker down for the purge but of course Skeletor (a crazed resident from earlier in the movie that the NFFA is counting on to stir shit up) purges, the video going viral. Unfortunately for the NFFA most people would only commit petty crimes when given the chance to commit any crime, mostly partying and looting.
During the purge we also find that some of Dmitri’s friends want to take advantage and kill him in order to take his spot. We get into some turf beef resulting in Dmitri with the win, sparing the two women who plotted against them and warning them to not come back to Staten Island. A bunch of white supremacists are leaving the church they previously took shelter in so that’s no longer a go.
Just like that we’re back in the NFFA headquarters and the doc is trying to figure out why there’s a sudden spike in murders. Well, to no surprise of any American citizen even from our parallel universe the NFFA hired mercenaries to go in and murder residents in order to make the experiment a success. This alone points to the science behind the purge being completely defunct and inaccurate. That means that they tricked the American people into voting for the Purge which actually doesn’t benefit them at all and only benefits the government by allowing them to legally kill those who they see as a strain on the system in order to continue to hoard wealth…you know, rather than actually invest in those communities of people with taxes collected by corporations and the top 5% paying their fair share. Less people below the poverty line equals less noticeable wealth disparity while they widen that disparity.
It’s basically republicans (let’s be real, the NFFA is right-wing evangelical christians) deciding to get rid of the need for social programs and the spending that they require by killing those who would benefit from said social programs. I would not be shocked if they did try something like this in the next few years. Because Updale isn’t a piece of shit she obviously doesn’t agree with this and because they know that they have her taken to be executed, thus removing her as a barrier to their success. They also go one step further and erase the footage.
Dmitri is a badass and the mercenaries are no match, he defeats them, protecting his group. We also learn that weapons have been dumped into the community in hopes that that would also increase the violence. They say fuck that mess and decide to stand up for the community. Unfortunately, like many other resistance groups in our country’s history the NFFA used drone tech to take them out. Dmitri is still able to save Nya despite his group being mostly taken out. Dmitri should have his own series at this point because he then blows up the second round of mercenaries in Nya’s apartment building as he tries to get them to safety. We end here, with Dmitri noting that they must stand up against the Purge. This moment of triumph is short lived with the NFFA releasing a statement that not only is the purge a success (all lies) but also that they could start the real one as soon as the following year.
This installment is self explanatory, ends in somewhat of a way I’d like to see (a resistance is formed and a hero is made), and all-in-all it delivers all that I look for in a Purge movie with some interesting first purge experiment specifics.
THE FOREVER PURGE (2021) - TIE FOR SECOND PLACE
You thought the Purge ended during the Election Year movie? Guess again! We are back baby and this time it’s the Forever Purge. Since this installment is fairly new I won’t be going into too much detail but rather just my overall thoughts and opinions and a recommendation to watch it yourself.
As this universe continues to run parallel to our own we have a resurgence of racism and nativism in the wake of the Purge ending in the previous installment. We time jump to 2048 and the NFFA have managed to take control again, reinstating the annual purge. There’s well placed fear that this purge could get out of hand as the tension in the country has risen to a fever pitch. We are exposed to nationalist groups (the Purge Purification Force or PFF) and people who believe that the purge should happen all the time when it comes to non-white, non-male, non-wealthy individuals.
In previous installments a sense of order existed in that once the purge alarm rang signaling the end of the purge everyone dropped their weapons and returned to whatever their new life looked like. Unfortunately for our main characters (who are likable characters for the most part) groups like the PFF have decided to ignore those laws and continue the purge. This requires our group of characters to attempt to cross the Mexico-America border safely into Mexico for asylum from the Forever Purgers.
Of course, like most politicians, when the consequences of their actions came knocking on their own doors they condemned the actions of their followers and instituted Martial Law. A Native American tribe who has a nearby safe house offers refuge to our group, which is also believable and feels accurate. Long story short, with the help of those along the way they make it across the border to see that the whole US is in turmoil and that the NFFA is being rightfully blamed for that. Some stayed to fight back and some crossed the border.
THE PURGE SERIES (2018 - 2020) - NOT RANKED
The Purge series is one I highly recommend checking out. I’ve re-watched it a handful of times and still find it entertaining. There’s not much to explore and I didn’t have enough time to rewatch both seasons for this post but I remember enough for a synopsis-ish take. Following the reboot success of the franchise post Purge: Election Year this series was released. Each series follows a different annual purge and a group as they navigate through the events of the holiday. Some are in purge-safe high rise office buildings while others are abducting those who they believe they have been wronged by. The whole series is interesting from episode to episode and points out very interesting aspects of the science behind the purge in the second series and the effects of such a holiday on the minds of the citizens (no spoilers for that but go watch).
POST MARATHON THOUGHTS & KEY TAKEAWAYS
I genuinely like the Purge and what it stands for, as well as the parallel universe to our own. This post will most likely be the most in-depth (sorry about the delay) and will keep building as I look more into our own politics, history, and the series itself...stay tuned.
Franchise news and background
SAFE-T Act, History (oppressive systems), and real world
Crimes inspired by the franchise - crime inspirations for the films