Jason Blum has a thing for producing films that center on families in peril. The horror movie king, CEO of Blumhouse Productions, and man responsible for Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister has now produced The Purge, another film that focuses on a nice, normal family screaming bloody murder for almost two hours.

“I think good suspense and horror is about creating situations that are relatable and throwing a wrench in that, and watching how people react to that,” says Blum. “You get to watch it happen in their most private spaces — if you feel threatened where you feel safest, it makes for the scariest situations.”

Blum’s latest venture, The Purge, is set in a not-too distant future, when the New Founding Fathers of America have decreed that for one day a year, all criminal activity is legal to “purge” the violent urges from society. Citizens can participate, or they can bunker down for the time this is taking place – if they can afford a security system. Since crime is legal for this one day, nobody is going to intervene, nobody is going to help at all if the tables turn against you.

Ethan Hawke plays James Sandin, a well-off security system salesman who believes in the Purge because it has been good to him and his family. The horror story begins when his young son, still unjaded by the world, tries to help one of the Purge’s victims and lets him into the house. The Sandin family becomes the new targets of the Purge during a violence-filled night because of this act of kindness. Hawke agreed with Blum that putting families in peril was one of the most effective forms of cinematic horror.

“It’s everyone’s biggest fear,” says Hawke. “There’s a moment in the film where you see him teaching his wife how to load a gun and taking the safety off. I think it’s a bit of a weird fantasy people play on sometimes, like ‘what would I do to protect my family?’”


Though above all, The Purge is insanely violent and gory, there are strong social themes throughout the film. The only people able to successfully protect themselves during previous Purges are the wealthy, while lower class citizens suffer the worst of the brutality. When the Sandin family gets attacked, it’s not “supposed” to happen, but it doesn’t make it any less brutal to take in.

“One interesting thing that happened is, whatever political party you’re in, you’ll come out of the movie saying ‘See, that affirms my beliefs,’” says Blum. “I’m not advocating for a Purge. I’m 99% sure we won’t end up with a Purge ourselves and I think that’s a good thing. We weren’t coming at it with a political point of view, but we were trying to get people talking.”

Hawke believes the film’s violence touches on something real, no matter how farfetched the premise.

“It’s an extremely violent film with an anti-violent message,” says Hawke. “I find something powerful about the movie, about watching this African American actor run through this gated community being shot at, that is all of the sudden not-so wild science fiction. The whole Trayvon Martin incident happened while we were making this movie.”

By setting the movie in 2022, instead of far into the future, Blum says it heightened the sense for audiences that this horrific act could happen to them. The Sandins are a normal American family that is thrust into an unthinkable situation where they must fight for their lives. Though the concept of having a yearly purge seems absurd to us, seeing it onscreen after it had already been happening in that society for years made it not such an insane idea to stomach.

For Hawke, one of the best parts of making this film was watching Lena Headey, who played his wife, Mary Sandin, perform. Hawke and Headey had previously worked together, and the chance to reunite in a horror movie was a unique experience.

“[Lena] and I did a film together when I was like 18 and she was like 14, years ago in England, and I remember thinking she was this magical actress,” says Hawke. We didn’t have any scenes together, but I remember thinking there was something really special about her, and I’ve just watched her from afar her whole career. She’s just a terrific actress, and she just plays this part so interestingly, and it’s kind of my favorite part of the whole movie. I think because I’ve known her so long, it made that family dynamic so easy.”

That family dynamic is one of the more compelling parts of the film. James Sandin is in a “grey zone,” according to Hawke, as it’s not clear-cut how the audience is supposed to feel about his character. He thinks he’s a good guy, and he’s not terrible. But he can’t help controlling his family, and they’re starting to think for themselves.

“[Mary] seems to be kind of against the Purge, slowly anesthetizing herself at the beginning of the movie, always drinking wine, she seems to clearly not like it, but not do anything to stop it, and he’s convinced himself it’s a good thing because he’s making money off of it,” says Hawke. “It’s more dangerous a character because all of us could be that character.”


Blum is the founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions, which has a track record of making successful films on low budgets, like Paranormal Activity, and Sinister, which also starred Hawke. The Purge was no exception to the low budget, high quality Blumhouse model.

“When you have a limited amount of money, you can’t spend a lot of money on special effects, on stunts, on extras, all the bells and whistles,” he says. “If you take those things out of the equation, it forces the directors, and everyone, myself included, to really focus on story and focus on character. I think there are a lot of benefits to doing movies low budget. The whole reason my business exists is to try new things…it may not work, but we can try. I like doing weird things.”

For Hawke, it’s been an interesting experience promoting The Purge at the same time as Before Midnight, a movie that could be considered its polar opposite, but garnered the same “R” rating in theatres. While The Purge earned its “R” for its violent content, Before Midnight gets the rating for a brief glimpse of Hawke’s costar Julie Delpy’s breast.

“Our country has such a strange relationship with sex and violence, fascinating conundrum for me,” says Hawke. “Both puritanical on one level and libertarian on the next. It’s just the truth of what we prioritize. Sex is a lot scarier to us that violence, I think.”

Both Blum and Hawke are confident that a real-life Purge would never arise, but if it did, it might not play out in the same fashion as the Sandin family’s experience. The film focuses on one scenario of what could be many. Blum says that the film’s creators chose to keep details of the Purge’s origins ambiguous to let the audience draw their own conclusions about the night. Remember, when this particular night takes place, the event has already been happening without hitch for seven years.

“The fact is, we made a really violent movie about violence in America, and I hope that people will talk about the movie in addition to being scared,” says Blum.

The Purge premieres June 7th.