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Film Review: The Purge: Anarchy

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★★★★☆

Last year’s surprise horror hit was one of the most profitable titles of the year. Unfortunately it wasn’t very good. It squandered its fascinating premise – in the nearby future, for one night a year all crime is legalised in America – and turned into just another dull home invasion thriller. This time, however, all that has changed.

The Purge: Anarchy leaves the confines of the home and places us in the centre of the carnage out on the streets. We also say goodbye to the upper-middle classes of the first film and the famous actors (Ethan Hawke and Lean Heady are nowhere to be seen). Instead, we have a cast of unknowns from lower income-brackets fending for themselves after being caught out late by various reasons (broken down cars, invaded apartments ect) on the night of ‘The Annual Purge’.

The first film squandered its fascinating premise. This much better sequel does it justice. It is an interesting comment on the underlying issues of the American class system and sense of social superiority. The horror feels more real this time around, with the highlight being a devastating final act which chillingly interrogates the concept of rich, privileged America exploiting the weak and vulnerable for personal gain.

Though some may dismiss it as hysterical or exploitative nonsense, it’s actually a lot more intelligent than that. It carefully holds back from showing us too much of the violence occurring around the characters which, as well as helping the distributor achieve the much-needed 15 certificate, also increases the sense of horror. Implication has a lot more impact than explicit gore and director James DeMonaco is careful to keep the tension up without indulging in excessive nastiness. This is a clever and at times powerful horror film that uses atmosphere and tension to keep the scares coming. I’m intrigued to see where the series goes from here.

The Purge: Anarchy (2014), directed by James DeMonaco, is released in the UK by Universal Pictures, Certificate 15. Watch the trailer below:

 

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