The Purge: Election Year (2016)

The third film in this ultra-violent, action/horror franchise pushes the politics of fear to the front and center.

Both “The Purge” (2013) and “The Purge: Anarchy” (2014) contained an underlying subtext of political commentary just beneath the surface of their horror and action frameworks, the first film disguised as a home invasion thriller and the second as an action/revenge flick, but this time out writer/director James DeMonaco dispenses with the masquerade entirely and delivers a full out political message film directly dealing with the insanity of the 2016 Presidential election that we all witness unfolding on CNN 24 hours a day.

This message heavy tactic may or may not increase your enjoyment of “The Purge: Election Year” depending on how much tolerance you have for political reality (as scary as that is in its’ own right) seeping into your horror entertainment. The first two films could be enjoyed on a surface level as violent thrillers with the added intellectual bonus of the sly political undertones for those who chose to look deeper into the stories, but “Election Year” is impossible to watch from an unbiased perspective because politics are at the core of the story.

Instead of a third separate anthology film, however, “The Purge: Election Year” is a direct follow up to the last series entry that reintroduces “Anarchy’s” badass ex-cop, Leo Barnes, again played with edgy anti-hero charisma by Frank Grillo (“Captain America: Winter Soldier”). Grillo’s character has been promoted to the head of security for a US Senator played by Elizabeth Mitchell who is running for President and whose poll numbers show her closing rapidly on the evil establishment candidate. Mitchell’s Senator Roan lost her entire family to a psychotic killer during the Purge as a teenager and wants to abolish the violent anti-holiday for good, and Grillo intends to protect her life until she can do just that.

Of course, the members of establishing Founding Fathers Party aren’t going to let this revolutionary Senator get in the way of the greed, power and bloodlust that are all fed by the annual Purge, so they make a last minute amendment to the Constitution making all members of government also fair targets during the 12 hours of the Purge, allowing them to send an elite military squad to assassinate the Senator on Purge Night.

Although there are also a few mentally unstable Purge participants dropped into the mix, including a duo of psycho girls who “just want their f##king candy bars” and will kill you and burn down your store to get them, most of the general horror and insanity of the Purge takes a backseat to the assassination plot as Grillo and Mitchell take to the streets on the run from the military hit squad led by a killer with swastikas tattooed on his face.

The evil candidate running for President against our heroine is also a leading pastor in the church. Subtlety apparently isn’t something the director was worried about being accused of this time around.

I’ve immensely enjoyed the wacky premise and violent action of “The Purge” franchise up until this point, but I feel the series’ second entry, “The Purge: Anarchy,” hit the sweetest spot in balancing the horror, action, and political satire promised by the central premise.

The Purge: Election Year” continues the John Carpenter-esque inspired formula found in films like “Assault of Precinct 13” and “Escape from New York” with several key ingredients: 1) A clear distrust of government, 2) empty, apocalyptic sci-fi Noir landscapes and 3) a badass anti-hero worth rooting for. However, some spotty acting from some of the extended cast and the obvious occasional constraints of the budget to properly relay the scope of the story DeMonaco attempts to tell keep “Election Year” from having the impact that “Anarchy” had on me on first viewing.

I have to give DeMonaco credit, however, for actually delivering an ending that pretty much wraps up the trilogy in a way that would be satisfying if there were no more “Purge” films to follow, but that’s unlikely given the series’ box-office success. The beast cannot be contained.

The Phantom of The Ville

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