James DeMonaco expands his Purge franchise to a trilogy with the timely The Purge: Election Year. Every year in the US, for one twelve-hour period, all crime is legal. This is called The Purge. Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) had her family murdered during a Purge and now runs for presidency to try to stop the national holiday. The current government want to stop her so they attempt to assassinate her at this year’s Purge. However, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), who spared his son’s killer in The Purge: Anarchy, is now her head of security and is going to put his life on the line to protect the senator.
The Purge series is one of the more high concept current franchises in mainstream horror. The first film disappointed by not capitalising on this idea and was instead a limp and dull home invasion movie. The Purge: Anarchy raised things significantly by being hugely enjoyable with plenty of memorable images and a few interesting ideas thrown in. The Purge: Election Year sits somewhere in the middle. It does show some creativity and invention with a few arresting images that stick in the mind, such as “Purge” written in blood on the pillars of the Lincoln memorial, a middle-aged woman singing to herself sat on a bench while a corpse burns in front of her, or the killer teenage girls riding around in a lit-up car with Miley Cyrus’s Party in the USA blaring. But it’s bigger ideas are brought from Anarchy rather than really creating anything new itself; people prowl the night with guns and creatively decorated masks, and the rich gather up a selection of destitute people to kill for themselves, this time with a religious ceremony involved. Ultimately, Election Year is a chase movie as Roan and Barnes are pursued by militant Neo-Nazis, but it’s entertaining enough.
The characters are fine. Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War) continues his trajectory as the next big Hollywood action star. Joe Dixon (Mykelti Milliamson), Marcos (Joseph Julian Sortia) and Laney Rucker (Betty Garbiel) are the working class element of the film who get to mingle with the rich senator and show that there are good people just trying to get by. They won’t stick with you but you care enough about them to hope they get to hold their own.
Carrying on with the second film’s socio economic message (The Purge is a scheme invented by the rich to kill the working class and migrant community while making themselves more money and allowing them to have a little murderous fun in the process), it really hits the political message hard. Election Year is of course timed to coincide with this year’s US election, but the filmmakers were probably counting their blessings as the Trump frenzy has grown out of control. You can imagine Trump sitting at home watching the film and getting a few ideas with a grin on his handful of old ham face.
The Purge: Election Year is better than The Purge but isn’t as good as The Purge: Anarchy. It lacks as much invention as the central idea can conjure but it is a largely enjoyable action horror with flashes of creativity to keep things interesting. It’s still not as scary as this year’s US election though.
THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JAMES DEMONACO / STARRING: FRANK GRILLO, ELIZABETH MITCHELL, MYKELTI WILLIAMSON, JOSEPH JULIAN SORIA, BETTY GABRIEL / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 26TH