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5 Dos And 5 Don'ts For Surviving The Purge

There's no American holiday quite like the Purge. Seriously, there isn't — and that's a good thing. But what if it were real, this one night out of the year in which all crime, including murder, was legal? Would you hide, or would you seek? Are you a patriot or what?

The Purge franchise carries the same vicarious thrills as a typical zombie movie, imagining a lawless world in which it's you versus everybody, kill or be killed. Even after four movies, it's a premise that's ripe for exploration — as proven by the USA Network's ten-episode Purge television event, premiering on Tuesday, September 4. 

Pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, and — should the bloodshed prove too minimal — government goons against the otherwise-peaceful populace, the Purge is a competition that's hard to win without becoming morally compromised (or worse). But over four action-packed stories of survival, grit, and sheer anarchy, we've noticed a handful of strategies that would help any Purge participant get to the end of their night relatively unscathed, along with a few tactics to avoid at all costs. 

These are fictional stories, naturally, and we're all just playing around — but if the Purge really did pop off, would you be prepared to make it through? Follow along as we break down a list of the dos and don'ts of Purge night.

Do: Prior preparation

Ask any manager type about the five, six, or seven-odd P's, and you'll get a similar answer every time: "Proper planning prevents poor performance." It's an adage that can be applied to everything from food service to the front lines, and it works in the Purge context as well. Put simply, if you're caught out when the Purge sirens sound and you haven't yet built up a stockpile of barbed wire, Cookie Crisp, and rocket-propelled grenades, then you deserve whatever's coming to you, buddy. This is like waiting until April 14 to start filing taxes — If you ain't done it by then, you ain't getting it done, at least not to your full potential. You procrastinate during Purge season, and there's going to be some damage.

This is a principle that shows up constantly across Purge movies, which see the people who have thought ahead usually come out ahead — unless they're a rich couple who raised a kid with a conscience, like in the first movie, where a minor breach sparked a world of hurt. 

Nowhere is this idea of prior planning being the key to success truer than in the case of Frank Grillo's character Leo Barnes, who is basically an off-brand, fully-strapped knockoff of the Punisher. There's also The First Purge's Dmitri, who prepared for the inaugural purging by seemingly getting a one-night lease for every gun that's ever washed up on Staten Island. Anyway, you need to go and learn some martial arts. 

Don't: Cultivate grudges

Purge or no Purge, the key to not being mercilessly and violently killed by your neighbors with machine guns, hammers, and chainsaws is to not give your neighbors a reason to mercilessly and violently kill you with machine guns, hammers, and chainsaws. This can be accomplished by just generally being a good, considerate person in your everyday life, and not giving people any cause to think about your name when the annual "murder is legal" holiday comes around. 

Basically, unless you want to end up in your own personal Purge movie, don't get yourself a reputation as your block's own Grumpy Gus. No, for those other 364 days of the year, you've got to be more Smilin' Steve, giving out daps and pounds and helping old ladies cross the street. Otherwise, Crazy Carl down the road might take offense to your attitude, and take the knives out on you the moment he gets the governmental go-ahead.

This is one of those obscure ways the Purge really could make the world better, sort of, in a tortured logic sort of way. Think about it — the threat of death is potent fuel. Roommates would be inspired to sweep the hardwood every once in awhile, to avoid planting homicidal seeds in each other's heads. Otherwise, people might end up like The Purge's Sandin family, ringed in by resentful neighbors, with big targets on their backs. So be nice to people — No one wins the Purge alone.

Do: The buddy system

The Purge is a series of horror movies about a horrifying concept. In that context, it's dangerous to go alone. During Purge night, being by yourself at any moment could be a one-way ticket to the local morgue. You never know when a marauding team of dirt bike riders, paramilitary goons, or the freaking KKK might be lurking around the corner, ready to take a bite out of the country's population via overwhelming force. 

The only person in the history of The Purge onscreen who actually makes the one-man-army route work for him is The First Purge's Dmitri, who spends the third act of his movie going full Rambo on a housing tower full of well-armed invaders. But that only ends up being the case after his entire team is assassinated via drone strike, and the only reason he goes into the tower is to reunite with and protect his remaining friends. 

The Purge: Anarchy is entirely about the value of friendship in the trenches, with protagonist Sergeant Barnes going from a vengeance-driven lone wolf to a morally righteous defender of the weak. All the other good guys in that movie would be done for if not for their alliance with Leo, but they ultimately save his soul too. Capable as they are, even Dmitri and Leo couldn't make it on their own — not year after year, anyway. 

Don't: Get cocky

Whether you like it or not, the Purge is kind of a party. It's an awful party, full of despicably selfish people all trying to get one over on each other in backhanded, backstabby ways — but whatever, that's still a party. C'est la vie.

To that end, you as a Purge participant will probably take steps to try to enjoy yourself during the downtime of the 12-hour murderthon, perhaps by cracking open a frosty 2010 vintage Four Loko or two. But whatever you do, don't get cocky and think that you're somehow invincible — there are no cheat codes out in these streets. 

Across all of the Purge movies, it's downright shocking how many participants willingly serve themselves up as cannon fodder, twirling in the streets with reckless abandon and a baseball bat, all but asking to get got by a sniper's bullet. Don't let this be you. Murder is legal for everyone, after all.

Purgers can up their chances of survival considerably just by being humble about things, hiding in trash cans like Oscar the Grouch and praying for dawn. Don't get caught up in elitist acts of pretentious ritual murder, which backfire far too frequently. Don't be out in the road in a tank top and a bunny mask, flexing like you're God's own Viking, either. That's how you get a crossbow bolt to the chest from the real heroes. You are vulnerable — act like it.

Do: Armor up

For a period of 12 hours, the Purge is basically civil war, and it's concerning how many people try to get in on the action with no armor on their side.

Even mall security guards wear bulletproof vests when they go to work, so why do so many Purgers head out like they're going to a warehouse rave instead of an unhinged massacre? Are they trying to get killed? Because that's what always seems to happen to the street-level bad guys in these Purge movies. One minute they're living it up straight shirtless like life's just one big tailgate, and the next minute, they are actually dead. That is terrible Purge strategy. This is what we call "bad chess." 

When it comes to Purge time, everyone seems to feel like the mask is where it's at. People put more thought into their freaky Purge mask than they do their Halloween costumes, picking out a perfect choice like they're heading to a murder-themed Mardi Gras. But that seems to be where most participants stop, prep-wise. They don't even wear helmets! Do you know how easy it would be to notch some kills by just standing on a roof and throwing cinder blocks at people? Your Nixon mask means nothing to the brute force of terminal velocity. 

In a way, purging is like riding a bicycle on roads in heavy traffic. Are you trying to look cool, or do you want to get home alive?

Don't: Be obsessive

After going through each Purge movie with a team of experts, we've determined that Purge night is not a great time to go and settle scores, no matter how unintuitive that might feel. 

Despite the fact that the Purge seems to exist expressly so that you can get vengeance for a bad grade, low pay, or some other injustice, none of these complaints are worth dying for — which is absolutely what's going to happen should you prove incapable of letting things go. 

Countless Purge movie villains die on some lonely hills over the course of the four movies, from the teenage girl in Election Year who wants to steal some snacks from a convenience store to the entire squad of prep school creeps from the first movie who couldn't let one guy get away. 

Here's what these villainous agents have in common: They're single-mindedly focused on accomplishing one goal to the exclusion of all else during the Purge night, and also, they all get killed. Frequently, they get killed in comic fashion, falling to the wayside like disposable pawns while the people around them work toward more noble goals, like keeping their families safe. 

Look, we know you've been waiting all year to let the beast out, and yes, your landlord probably deserves it. But if they get away the first time, you've got to call it a wash. They'll see you coming if you try again. Relax — there's always next year.

Do: Question authority

Here's the big lie of the Purge story, both in and outside the franchise's universe. As the prequel movie makes abundantly clear, the truth of the Purge is that it's never been about making crime legal and letting people fight each other. Instead, it's always been a pretext for the ruling powers to exterminate the country's so-called undesirables — also known as, "probably you."

The Purge is not an experiment backed by science, or a tradition that gets results. It's only a framework in which the government can send in heavily-armed kill squads to cleanse the nation of its lower class. It's fascist policy in every way — and fascists freaking cheat.

As the movies of The Purge make clear, usually around the time of the second act low point, the rules of the Purge are highly pliable, and subject to change at any moment. If you think you're invulnerable because you're a high-ranking politician, or not in the first Purge's field of play, think again. If they feel like it, the ones who make the rules will change them, solely to get rid of you. You can wear the blue flower and praise the New Founding Fathers all you want, but this is not necessarily a winning strategy. Trust your friends — don't trust the government. Those guys are the ones who started this.

Don't: Run in elite circles

Here's a Purge night lesson for you: Blue-collar people are good, and the rich are nakedly evil. Sorry if you disagree, but in the world of the Purge, it's true. 

As works of art, the stories of The Purge focus a lot on systemic inequality — an us vs. them economy. In that equation, you'd think that it'd be to your advantage to stick close to the wealthy elite on Purge night, up in fortified compounds and away from street level carnage. But the movies' body counts make a lie of that assumption, proving that the elite operators in this universe are the most dangerous, and least trustworthy. 

The elite may be safe from roving mobs, but the movies also hammer home the idea that none of them are safe from each other. You ain't finding safety in a gilded cage, my friend. Sure, maybe you can insinuate yourself into the ruling class' good graces, and get a favor or two pulled for you vis-à-vis private security or home defense. But multiple movies have shown these elite weirdos turning on each other constantly, flexing their disloyalty as they put bullets in each others' heads and change the night's rules on a whim.  

You want to survive the Purge? Make friends with some hillbillies and go fishing in a national park. They'll kit you out with camo and show you how to make a tree stand. Whatever you do, stay far away from the people in charge.

Do: Leave the country

You want to know a great city? Toronto. What a beautiful slice of urban sprawl, that Greater Toronto Area. Or, if you're looking for warmer weather, check out lovely Melbourne, Australia. If you're in the upper Midwest, you can take a weekend trip to Neebish Island, relaxing on the banks of Lake Huron and occasionally escaping — maybe for just 12 hours or so — into the maple syrup safety of Ontario's Sault Ste. Marie. You've got a lot of options here. The U.S. is full of escape routes.

Basically, as was memorably demonstrated in the classic '80s movie WarGames, sometimes the only way to win is not to play. If you've got the means and motive, get the heck out of the country on Purge night.

Don't want to deal with the authorities of another country? Fine — shove a boat offshore 12 miles or so, and float freely on the relatively lawless sea with a beer and a fat stogie. Or just move, maybe permanently — seriously. 

If the U.S. ever did enact a national murder day, it'd probably feel like time to hang up your citizenship, right? If you've got the money to get out, then just emigrate for a little while, post yourself up in London, and wait for the whole thing to blow over. You'll be home eventually — how long can this tradition really last? 

Don't: Go outside

Finally, our number one, "if nothing else, do this" bit of Purge night advice: Stay indoors at all times, with no exceptions. Lock the doors and leave them locked. Get in the bathtub and wait.

You may have noticed that the plots of the Purge movies don't really kick in until someone interacts with the outside world. If you want to avoid that, then stay in. Don't get the mail, don't try to beat traffic, and don't put yourself in a position in which you and yours will need a beer, pizza or ammunition run. 

There's a reason why none of these movies have focused too much on what goes down inside most peoples' homes during Purge night, and that's because for most people, the Purge is a downright cozy experience. It's people in fuzzy socks with AR-15s eating popovers and burning through reruns of Chrisley Knows Best. 

The movies themselves establish that, for the most part, regular people don't really go after each other during the Purge. It's live and let live, baby — don't start nothing, won't be nothing. So invite some friends over and have a game night, and make sure you cook a lasagna or something for the kind folks out on guard duty. With four movies of documentary evidence to go off of, it's clear the Purge is for crazy people, so let the crazy people have it. You don't have to go out there. Just stay inside and watch TV.