The Daily Stream: The Purge Is Still Relevant, Still Scary, And Still As Eloquent As Ever

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Film: "The Purge"

Where You Can Stream It: HBOMax

The Pitch: A totalitarian political party called the "New Founding Fathers of America” are voted into office following an economic collapse in 2014. The fringe group passes a law sanctioning an annual event called the "Purge", wherein all crime is legal and emergency services are temporarily suspended for a 12-hour period once a year. By 2022 — when the film takes place, yikes — the United States has nearly become crime-free, with a record unemployment rate of 1%, allegedly all thanks to one night of murder and depravity. The film focuses on the Sandins, a rich family with a top-notch security system ready for anything on Purge Night. When their son hears a man begging for help outside and lets him in, it severely complicates what they expected to be a quiet 12 hours.

Why It's Essential Viewing

The "Purge" franchise has been done to death, much like any horror franchise worth its salt. "Scream," "Halloween," "Nightmare on Elm Street." They've all come back again and again like the villains whose stories they tell — sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

Depending on who you ask, the "Purge" franchise did that as well, sometimes expanding on the world's main concept in meaningful ways — in my opinion, the "Purge" TV show, which premiered in 2018, totally rules — and sometimes not so much. And, like most horror franchises worth loving, its original installment has stood the test of time (so far).

Among many other things, like the human need for catharsis and our unexplainable penchant for violence, 2013's "The Purge" does such an excellent job of highlighting what happens when extremism brews over in the teapot and spills onto the floor. While we were making strides toward equality as a country — we were embarking on President Obama's second term when this film was released — there were (and still are) a lot of nefarious things brewing in the underbelly, hoping for a chance to take power. This film shows what happens when we let our guard down and allow that to happen — and even if it only rears its ugly head one night a year, that doesn't mean there isn't something sinister behind it all.

Putting a Magnifying Glass on Privilege

"The Purge" doesn't gloss over privilege. It spotlights it in a way that is obtuse and comical, yet deadly serious and terrifying in the right moments. Take, for example, my favorite character from the film: the Polite Leader, who takes his place as the film's chief antagonist after the Sandins let in a man whom the Leader's group had been hunting moments prior. In this film, the "Purge" franchise sets up an obvious and bold elitism and separates the rich from the poor quickly — however, it also proves the rich have no problem eating their own, or doing it with a smile. Rhys Wakefield, who plays the unsettling head honcho of the masked group of assailants, launches into a monologue as his group surrounds the Sandin house that serves to scare and excite you with its uniqueness of character.

"Your home tells me you're good folk, just like us. One of the 'haves.' And your blue flowers tell me that you support the Purge. We want to treat you fairly, so listen closely. Let me introduce us. We are some fine, young, very educated guys and gals. We have gotten gussied up in our most terrifying guises, as we do every year, ready to violate, annihilate, and cleanse our souls."

Writer-director James DeMonaco's script in the hands of Wakefield is playful and haunting. It's certainly not how you'd want someone to speak to you while threatening you. Its formalness and forcefulness is somehow more horrific than outright cruelty — and, I'll just say it, Wakefield's monologue is one of the most memorable in horror history.

"The pig doesn't know his place, and now he needs to be taught a lesson. You need to return him to us. Alive. So that we may Purge as we are entitled. Here's the plan, Sandins. You have until our provisions arrive, provisions which will help us break into your elegant home. If you don't deliver him by the aforementioned time, we'll release the beast on him... And on you. And, um, we can enter any home we want. And we will want, as wanting is our will on this fine night."

Basically, in the immortal words of Stefon: this movie has everything. Dystopias, murder, mayhem, twists, turns, rich people fighting each other to the death, and, of course, a healthy dose of nihilism and pure dread. It's everything you could possibly want in a horror movie, if wanting is your will on this fine Saturday — but make sure you're home before the siren sounds.