In today’s state of cinema, a film with a completely original premise is rare. Because of this, I was incredibly excited for The Purge. While I still believe that this film has one of the best premises I have seen in quite a while, the rest of the film is an unfortunate mess. The film starts out strong, but it ends up dissolving into an incredibly dull home invasion thriller.

The year is 2022 and crime is at an all-time low. The reason for this is that all crime is legal for twelve hours on one day every year. Most members of society have grown to accept this and James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) believes that it is morally right. He and his family put their house into lockdown with their advanced security system, but Sandin’s son Charlie (Max Buckholder) lets an outsider in. This outsider is being hunted by a group of rich elite with a charming leader (Rhys Wakefield). The leader tells them that if they do not let this stranger out of their home, they are coming in.

It’s clear that The Purge had an interesting and original concept, but simply having a good idea doesn’t necessarily make a good movie. Even though the first half of the film raises some interesting questions on morality, the second half of the film never fully explores them and is content with becoming your standard home invasion thriller. These problems would have been forgivable had the film been executed well, but unfortunately the film is rarely thrilling and never scary.

Horror films are known for having bland and unintelligent characters, but it has been quite a while since I have seen horror movie characters this inept. James and his wife Mary (Lena Headey) aren’t necessarily bad parents, but splitting up when the power goes out is never a good idea. The worst characters in this film are, without a doubt, the two children. First of all Charlie is the reason that they got into this mess in the first place and he continues to make decisions that put their lives at risk. Their daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) is just as annoying but she is disappears for large chunks of the film, long enough for the viewer to forget about her until she returns.

Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey do a fine job of playing the parents in the family. Hawke’s performance is nowhere near as good as it was in 2012’s Sinister, but that could have something to do with this film’s weak directing. As Zoey and Charlie, Max Buckholder and Adelaide Kane are the weakest links in the cast, but I think this has more to do with the awful characters that they are portraying than their actual performances. The standout of the cast is Rhys Wakefield as the polite intruder. Sophisticated and charming, Wakefield is still able to make his character the scariest part of the movie.

I still have a lot of respect for The Purge. Even though its characters are weak and its climax is clumsily put together, it has the most original premise you will see all summer. There was quite a bit in this film that I would like to forget, but its premise is something that I will remember for quite a while.

The Purge receives 2/4