The Purge: Election Year
Dir. James DeMonaco (2016)
A Presidential candidate who was a previous victim of the Purge is campaigning on the platform of eliminating the Purge altogether. Her political opponents are not too happy about this.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The New Founding Fathers of America are an exceptionally creepy organization, an on-screen representation of the kind of government that perhaps might have existed had the attempted coup on January 6th, 2021 succeeded. This film has more direct involvement from the politicians behind the Purge as they are seeking to stop a new Presidential candidate, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), who is campaigning on the idea of cancelling all future Purges. She is fighting against the Christian fundamentalist underpinnings of the new regime, determined to spread the message that violence is not the answer to any question, much less the economic concerns from which the Purge originated in the first place. Of course, the NFFA are determined to take her down, leading them to revoke the rule from the first two films that makes government employees exempt from the violence of the holiday. This leads to a combination of the focuses of The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy, where the people being affected by the Purge is a combination of the 99 and the 1%.
Reprising his role from Anarchy, Frank Grillo plays Leo Barnes, the former police sergeant turned vigilante turned Senator Roan’s chief of security. Election Year doesn’t delve too much into the background of the event, assuming that its audience is well-familiar with the rules of the night from the previous two films. Instead, within 20 minutes we are deep inside the most dangerous night of the year, with Barnes having attempted to lock down the Senator and store owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson) camped out on the roof to defend his business with a rifle. Ex-badass Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) now drives around downtown in an armored truck during Purge night, seeking to help the injured and save people from the violence. All of these stories allow director James DeMonaco to do his best job yet of illustrating the disturbing nature of the Purge itself, creating some beautiful tableaus that highlight the destruction caused by the Purgers (including a rad-as-hell guillotine in the middle of downtown Washington D.C. and a newly renovated Lincoln Memorial).
Washington, D.C., 2020.
The plot of the film feels a bit contrived, with all of the groups seeing their stories intertwined in logically strained ways. It doesn’t all make sense, but it does all contribute to the path that our characters take, even if it all feels a bit predetermined. The politics are crude, a Mary Sue candidate with a group of B-movie tagalongs. The writing is good but has its weak points, and you never really question where things are heading from the moment a plot point is introduced. However, this is often the case in horror if we’re being honest with ourselves, so the key is to whether the cast and crew can keep things interesting along the way. Thankfully, they do that, helped along by Mitchell’s tragic goody-two-shoes character and Grillo’s badass, grizzled Purge veteran. The government is delightfully creepy, as they would need to be to be the folks behind these events, even though the pseudo-religious element feels a tad jammed in to convict as many segments of society as possible.
Election Year is the most stylish of the three films so far, crafting some brilliant visuals and disturbingly creepy Purging costumes. The addition of the “murder tourists” from other countries, coming to America because they want to murder at will, is an outstanding idea that is disconcertingly prescient of the events that have unfolded in the last five years. American politics are incredibly influential around the globe, with the people if not with the governments. The global connectivity that the internet has wrought has brought the worst ideas to the forefront, though these horrifically ignorant ideas are certainly not all American in origin. As protests have broken out around the globe in the last decade, championing everything from COVID denialism to the insistence that 5G and wifi somehow causes it, the entire world seems revolve around the ever-more-apparent fact that we live in a post-truth society. It’s all the rage nowadays to talk about our damaged relationship with the truth as a society, but it’s one of the most important and detrimental changes that have happened to the world in the last 25 years or more. It’s easy to blame one man or one party, but this has been a long time coming and is happening in too many places to be the sole responsibility of a small group of people. We’re all responsible in certain ways, and we have ourselves to blame if these movies ever become a reality.
Washington, D.C., 2020.
Who this movie is for: Purge fans, Political horror lovers, Gerrymandered voters
Bottom line: Entertaining and unfortunately relevant, The Purge: Election Year is absolutely worth a watch and is a pretty good addition to the franchise. Elizabeth Mitchell and Frank Grillo are great in their roles, and even though the side characters feel a bit one-note, they do the job to get us from points A to B. The NFFA is a terrifying villain, one that echoes in reality, as the final confrontation feels like a blood sacrifice at a Trump rally. I’m sure that was the intent, of course, but the groundwork was already laid for the villains well before 2016 and the group is even scarier in 2022. While Election Year is not as good of a movie as the original film, it’s more entertaining than the first two put together, especially the blood-soaked finale.