MOVIE REVIEW: The timely message of ‘The Purge: Election Year’ is what makes it truly scary
Throughout the years, the “Purge” franchise has changed and evolved.
It started out back in 2013 as a simple home invasion movie with a fun, creepy premise. One night a year, the government allows for 12 hours of lawlessness, where any crime is legal. It was a refreshing, interesting twist to modern horror flicks.
The second film, 2014’s “The Purge: Anarchy” took that premise to a larger scale, with three groups of survivors trying to get through the violent rampage of purgers in their town. As well as being a fun horror movie, “Anarchy” doubled down by making the journey more visually interesting and featuring smart social commentary about the upper and lower classes in this county.
Now, in the series’ third installment, “Election Year,” it takes aim at topics like politics, religion, and race in an interesting way. The story follows Leo Barnes, played by Frank Grillo, who chooses not to take revenge on the man who killed his son during the Purge. Year later, he becomes the head of security for Senator Charlie Roan, played by Elizabeth Mitchell, and must protect her during Purge Night so that she can run for president and abolish the Purge.
Now, I’ll start out by saying this: For those who don’t like their movies to be political, and I’m talking Michael Moore combined with Gloria Steinem-level liberal politics, this won’t be for you. This is the type of film that validates the right wing cries of the “Hollywood liberal elite.”
The film unapologetically takes aim at the NRA, gun culture, religious and political hypocrisy, and racial and economic inequality.
If you’re thinking that’s a lot to unpack for what’s supposed to be a stupid summer horror movie, I absolutely agree but, against all odds, I found myself falling in love with this film.
As well as making smart, relevant political and social commentary, the film is a blast to watch. It certainly isn’t what I thought it would be or as it was advertised – a horror film. This feels more like an action movie or thriller than its predecessors, and it benefits from this tone. While the world is absurdist in its violence and bloodlust, nothing is really too far out of reality here. That made the message and premise just that much more impactful in my eyes.
That being said, those expecting to see the same type of horror on display as the first two installments of the series will leave the theater bitterly disappointed.
Overall, this was a pleasant surprise for me. I liked this one the most of all three films so far. This wasn’t the horror film I expected. It was instead an inspired, sobering look into a mirror reflecting the county’s current political atmosphere, race relations, and economic disparity.
It’s much more nuanced than I expected, but that additional meaning to unpack made the film an extra bit more enjoyable for me.
In an election year as crazy as the 2016 cycle, a flick like this plays more like a sobering documentary than a surreal horror film. Maybe that’s the scariest part of it all.