Movie Review - The Purge: Election Year

the purge election year poster

@lcfremont reviews...

The Purge franchise is becoming the unicorn of the horror movie world: a horror franchise that gets better with each installment. This goes against everything that any horror fan knows to be true. Horror sequels almost always go steadily downhill. Yes, yes, a lot of people believe Scream 2 to be a sequel that is better than it’s predecessor and I think we can all agree that The Exorcist 3 is just as good as, if not better in my humble opinion, than the first film, but overall, horror sequels are just something that we all get through together. We slog through 20 million different incarnations of Jason Voorhees because that’s just your lot in life when you’re a horror fan.

Admittedly, the original The Purge film left a lot of us feeling unsatisfied, but one has to wonder how much of that was us putting too much pressure on the film to be something more than it ever intended to be. Ultimately, it’s a fine home invasion film with a little too much social commentary bringing it down, but it does have another kickass performance from Ethan Hawke during his horror renaissance. When The Purge:Anarchy came out, it felt like a kick in the pants because it was what we had anticipated the first film to be. Put an undeniably charismatic Frank Grillo in there and you have yourself a bona fide good time horror sequel. There was a lot more social commentary in this one, but it felt more organic, whereas, in the original, it felt misplaced. This Independence Day weekend we have ourselves The Purge:Election Year and it is full of social commentary at a time when we really need it. Horror always reflects the current fears of the world and Election Year really got under my skin.

the purge election year image

First and foremost, I think it’s important to note that Election Year is more of an action film with horror elements mixed in. In fact, if this movie doesn’t prove that Mr. Grillo deserves his own action franchise, I don’t know what does. His character, Leo Barnes, is even less friendly than in Anarchy, but that’s ok because he looks the way he does, has that amazing head of hair and takes care of business. His business being the protection of Senator Charlie Roan (an always excellent Elizabeth Mitchell) who is running for president on the campaign of eliminating Purge Night. Senator Roan has a very personal reason to want to abolish the night and the movie made good use of starting the film out with this tidbit.

After a lot of set up with the multiple characters that will all, inevitably, end up spending the night of the Purge together, we start the action off with a mercenary group, made up of white supremacists, who have been tasked with delivering Senator Roan alive to the midnight mass of the NFFA, the evil entity behind all of this Purge madness. Now that Barnes and Roan have been forced onto the streets of D.C., the action and terror can begin. I have to admit that I was doubtful they could provide a good reason for Leo being trapped outside with a group of hangers on yet again, but this storyline works well. I was also concerned about having seen too much in the trailers, but it turns out that what you see in the trailers is mostly window dressing. And I say this as a good thing. Much like Y Tu Mama Tambien showed a country from the confines of a car on a road trip, Election Year employees the same tactic as our group rides around in Laney’s triage van.

the purge election year image

Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) used to be a Purge legend, but now she chooses to ride around with her friend in a triage van and provide emergency health care. This proves to be very valuable on multiple occasions and allows our group to see all of the batshit crazy things happening on the streets and they also meet up with some unlikely, temporary accomplices. Laney Rucker is a badass and I want to be her, I wanted more of her and I got unnecessarily excited when she took out a group of entitled millennials that I hated with a fierce anger.

People purging because they feel slighted by someone, people purging for fun, for justice, for peace of mind and people purging because they’re on vacation all make appearances. The idea of murder tourism was a great one and an idea that I absolutely bought into immediately. In fact, the scariest thing about Election Year is the underlying anger, hatred and frustration that is all too palpable in our world right this minute. As an American who is still completely gobsmacked that Mr. Trump is one of our presumptive presidential nominees, Election Year almost feels like a foretelling of our imminent future. A government run by old, rich white dudes that, clearly, have very specific racist leanings and the inevitable anger that this creates in the minorities and disenfranchised. Also, Marcos is exactly what the average Mexican immigrant looks like, a hard worker who is just trying to make a better life for himself. When he quips that growing up in Juarez was like living through the Purge everyday, it felt like a much needed slap in the face for Americans who take their cushy lives for granted.

Ultimately, Election Year ups the ante on Anarchy in both the action and the social commentary. At a wee bit long of a run time, it still manages to be engaging through out and the set up for the inevitable sequel also feels perfectly timely. Election Year isn’t doing anything new or mind blowing, but it’s a fun time at the movies and the really scary bits are the parts that feel the most completely believable because if you don’t think America could look like this in the near future, you aren't paying attention. For me, that’s good horror.

Lisa Fremont

Twitter: @lcfremont

Images: IMDb