At their best, horror movies attempt to tap into the cultural zeitgeist and reveal society’s collective anxieties. At their worst, movies like The Purge only graze our most paranoid impulses, but still manage to entertain us with garbage dialogue and very rewarding death scenes. Now, a survival expert tells Inverse that he’s teaching his students how to survive hostile situations like the ones portrayed in the series.
The feeling that The Purge’s brutal, nightmarish version of America is not far removed from ours is probably why there are so many of these objectively bad movies. In the world of The Purge, Americans are given one night in which all crime — including murder — is legal. While the scenario is thankfully fake, the repressed rage of a trigger-happy nation divided feels very real — and very disturbing.
“You don’t remember how bad it was…the poverty, all the crime,” one of the characters in the first Purge film calmly explains to his young son. “This night saved our country. Tonight allows people a release for all the hatred, and violence, and aggression that they keep up inside them.”
With The Purge fandom seemingly growing by the minute and Halloween fast-approaching, we decided to ask a survival expert: If a Purge-like scenario broke out in real life, how would a person survive the night?
According to Justin Williams, director and lead instructor at Sigma 3 Survival School, the most important thing a person can do in a Purge-like situation is pretty obvious: Hide.
“The biggest thing we teach our students is to fit the baseline,” Williams tells Inverse. “Any time you’re in a hostile environment, you want to meet the baseline, which is matching the surroundings. So if you’re in an urban area and there are hostile people around, we try to teach students how not to stick out.”
Basically, stay close to buildings and far away from highways where attackers could be lurking.
Be Prepared To Defend Yourself
It’s difficult to think how you might act in a real-life Purge, but Williams says that in any case, it’d be important to create an “improvised weapon” with objects around you.
“It could be everything from a broken bottle to a melted piece of plastic to make a tip,” he says. “Any household will have a butcher knife — a butcher knife is a good design for butch craft skills and for defense if you had to. But blades are what we teach our students to work with — they’re just as deadly and concealable as any gun, and if they’re brought with the same amount of force, they can be just as deadly.”
Stay Away From Places You’d Think Are Safe
Though it might make sense to flock to densely populated areas of town, in a situation like Purge night, Williams says you’d be safer off main street.
“The places that you’d think would be helpful are actually your worst encounters,” Williams explains. “In an urban environment that’s hostile — where you don’t have many resources at your disposal — places like shelters and food pantries are going to be target areas for hostile groups. so those are areas you want to avoid. You want to avoid any kind of gathering place — you’re better off staying at the outskirts of town. We encourage taking advantage of backroads and staying close to buildings.”
Know Your Surroundings
In The Purge: Election Year, one of the most memorable lines is from of the characters, Leo Barnes, who says: “We’re being hunted. We are on our own. We have one goal right now: Survival.”
Truthfully, the key to surviving an event like The Purge involves staying alert and constantly checking for cover, according to Williams.
“In hostile environments in movies like The Purge, people are letting off bullets everywhere, so you have to make sure that any time you take cover, it’s something that will protect you from ballistics,” he says. “It’s always good to be sure of your surroundings and make sure you know where the exits are, and that you always know where cover is.”
While The Purge thankfully only exists in poorly written movies, emergency preparedness is real in this volatile world with its own set of horrors. Stay safe out there, folks.