The Purge (2018) Review
Published on April 26, 2019
'The Purge' is a one-note series of murder and mayhem adapted for the small screen using three separate story arcs that weave together as the sun rises on the twelfth hour.
September 4, 2018
'The Purge' franchise is big business and its increasing cinematic bottom line has now seen Blumhouse Productions (Halloween) adapt the franchise for the small screen into a VOD (Prime Video) format. 'The Purge' TV show debuted on 4th September and consists of ten episodes with a narrative that takes place during the already-established 12-hour period when all crime is legal.
In Episode One, tentatively titled What Is America?, we are introduced to a group of seemingly unrelated characters over the space of 50 minutes, who are forced to face up to their past and plot how to better their futures. None of the characters capture the imagination, partly down to the bloated emphasis on soap opera theatrics. The villains of the piece are additionally written so broadly at times they become victims of self-parody, the worst offender being the capable Fiona Dourif (Cult of Chucky), who plays an offbeat cult leader whose facial expressions include many cringe-inducing moments.
Episode Two, Take What’s Yours, aired on 11th September and subsequently subjects us to the film series’ politics that simmers closer to the surface throughout the second
story arc, which weaves together the three narrative stands. Here the story progresses from the standpoint that Purge Night has been normalised and our characters Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria), Jane (Amanda Warren), Rick (Colin Woodell) and his wife Jenna (Hannah Anderson) introduced in the pilot have figured out they have only a few options open to them during the festivities, which are to hole up, die at the hands of Purge participants, or hit the streets and raise some good healthy hell of their own.
"The weakest of our journeys is Miguel’s story, which is at the heart of Purge-inspired weirdness. This is partly down to the religious connotations associated with the plot and the weak villainess."
Jane’s story, which is developed through flashbacks, is the more solid of the three arcs, exploring moral ambiguity and office (again) politics. 38 storeys above ground she and her colleagues are spending the night trying to close a deal before international markets open, and working late offers the advantage that everyone on the 38th floor
of the office block has agreed not to participate in the Purge, and in doing so they are provided with security personnel for protection. But as the Purge approaches, Jane leaves the safety of her office block to pay a Purge-assassin to most likely bump off her boss David (William Baldwin), and while Jane is concentrating on her own dirty deeds two of her staff, Mark (Adam Stephenson) and Alison (Jessica Miesel), seem to have their own rivalries and devilish agendas.
The weakest of our journeys is Miguel’s story, which is at the heart of Purge-inspired weirdness. This is partly down to the religious connotations associated with the plot and the weak villainess. The camp overtones and Saw-inspired set piece condemn its proceedings and show the episodic budget limitations. One specific scene sees Miguel crawling through a makeshift air space with blades coming at him from all directions, only to cut away and return later to have him free from the death trap without so much as a scratch. It’s also this stand that focuses on Dourif and her bus of religious cranks. Outside of Dourif’s unintentionally comical performance the cast generally gives solid performances; even Baldwin’s one-note character, a smug lothario with sleazy charm, delivers an eccentric performance which mirrors shamed Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein (Scream) with skin-crawling success.
Written and directed by James DeMonaco (Skinwalkers) along with his writing team Jamie Chan (Skins), Jeremy Robbins (Stage Two), Thomas Kelly (Blue Bloods) and Krystal Houghton Ziv (Rush Hour), the show’s teleplay certainly capitalises on the film’s established lores but ultimately succeeds in the form of fleeting details without the overindulgent explanation that so often bogged down the film series. Obviously there are budget restrictions that are evident from the scaled-down violence but it offers just enough entertainment to tide you over until the next 'The Purge' hits cinemas.
If you’re a fan of 'The Purge'’s charismatic weirdos and political parallels you won’t be disappointed but for a non-fan such as myself the show to date has only delivered a limited amount of thrills and chills to hold my interest.