Many of us have seen movies or tv shows dealing with an alternate reality of our country or the entire world. They range from that classic Twilight Zone episode, “ The Eye of the Beholder” to being completely dominated by simians in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”Probably the most interesting are the realities we alternate ourselves. Their essentially much more identifiable since they deal directly with us in every aspect of life.

Fully armed with an extremely foreboding premise of a not-so-distant future, The Purge combines suspense and horror in a frightful illustration of willful insanity in America, composed of government approved criminal activity for one night annually. It’s the one chance for everyone to “get it out their system.” Naturally , all moral lines are crossed during this 12 hour period of deliberate arson, rape, assault and especially murder, plus all other illegal activities people can think of to cleanse themselves of their innate sense of violence. We all know there’s enough crime in the U.S. But in this alternate world, a 1% unemployment rate coupled with an all time low in unlawful mayhem, is justification for one “free pass” for everybody.

Ethan Hawke’s James Sandin and family serve as primary focus. They’re quite upscale thanks to James’ security expertise, providing his kin and their equally affluent neighbors with all the necessary lockdown protection from any Purge participants. They have always been perfectly safe. But the Sandin clan’s morals and mettle are put to the ultimate test this night when benevolent son Charlie (Max Burkholder) does the unthinkable by letting a hunted stranger (Edwin Hodge) in their house, placing them all in great danger from a band of young killers determined to collect their prize.

All the fun begins at this point as Hawke’s Sandin cannot give his nervous wife Mary (Lena Heady) a 100% guarantee that these murderers will not breach their home fortress. Even with all the necessary guns he has stashed in the house, it’s apparent he’s never had to actually defend his wife, son and rebel daughter Zoe (Adelaide Kane) from intruders, resulting in an unstable awkwardness. Why couldn’t they be exempt from this yearly madness like Category 5 + government officials?

Tension mounts exponentially as the leader of the pack, known only as the “polite stranger” gives James only a few hours to give up the “bloody stranger” or face mass murder of his family. It’ s an incredibly crucial situation, where Ethan Hawke shines as a desperate patriarch similar to his turn in Sinister and the upcoming Getaway.

Halloween masks (as if their really needed) worn by the assailants to instill fear,are the only thing that inserts horror, besides the suspense of watching a relatively normal family’s life turned completely upside down, physically and psychologically. Anyone with a family can surely become empathetic toward the Sandins who, within those few hours, evolve into something they never thought possible- potential killers.

First time helmer James DeMonaco wastes no time drawing you into his directorial debut, assembling a bloody home invasion scenario that may have a few surprises. Some writers do not make a glorious initial transition to the director’s chair( i.e. David Goyer and Blade Trinity) But thankfully, DeMonaco’s directing skills equal that of his writing credits for The Negotiator and 2005’s Assault On Precinct 13. So we should be seeing more from him. With this first offering, The Purge, he shows fine potential, delivering an ominous, incredibly bleak and thought provoking outlook for our nation where citizens are willing to sacrifice innocent lives within the nation itself to keep America strong. Let us all hope and pray it never comes down to that scenario.