The Purge is one of the crazier horror concepts to come along in a few years, and it doesn’t even involve anything supernatural or otherworldly. It’s about a new American law that makes all crime legal (including murder) over the course of one night, once a year. The thinking being that, by acting on primal instincts, you become a better person the other 364 days of the year. It’s absurd. But it’s also not the craziest thing anyone’s ever thought up for a dark, dystopian future America in fiction and film. And the decision to make an Election Year entry in the series in an actual Election Year? Brilliant. I don’t know who to congratulate for their smart thinking, but somebody be thinking smart.
In this, the third film of the crazy Purge franchise, Senator Roan pledges to end the Purge if she’s elected President. Her opponent simply states that the right to Purge is an American right, and even attaches some religious significance to it. (No current political parties are attached to either candidate but some arguments should sound familiar.) On the Purge before the election, Roan’s enemies come gunning for her and it’s up to the idealistic underdogs to keep her safe through the night.
The Purge is a strange genre mash-up of horror, shoot ‘em ups, and bizarre political sci-fi. But maybe the political satire really isn’t that bizarre. I mean, has anybody been paying attention to our actual Election Year? It’s goddamn crazy, gang. Some of the madness of 2016 doesn’t seem that far off from the madness seen in the movie. I mean, I’m not the only one who noticed that the Purge: Election Year TV spots repeatedly played during the GOP debates earlier this year, right? And while we’re still a long way away from an actual Purge night in the real world, I do think it speaks to how messed up America is that the film can feel so distinctly American.
Back to the movie: it’s probably the best of the series. I think The Purge series started off on the wrong foot, with the first film basically being a high-concept home invasion thriller. The Purge: Anarchy and Election Year take us out on the streets and that’s where the action is. Some of the best moments are little throwaway bits of the country going mad in the background, like a scene where our heroes pass by an old lady on a bench who’s singing to a man on fire a few feet away. None of the Purge films are modern horror classics but they’re interesting and peculiar in their own way, showing us a version of our country that’s worse than it really is, even if it still suffers from the same diseases.
Tomorrow: John Carpenter's THE THING.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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