Review: The Purge: Election Year (2016)

The Purge Election Year

The Purge: Election Year (2016)

Within three years (one shy of a full, traditional US presidential term), “The Purge” franchise has finally found it’s voice and vote with “Election Year.” It’s the finale of a series that started as a home invasion entry with a slight political bent which then swore in a sequel, “Anarchy” that played out like a siege or even an adventure film with sharp wit and fast paced action while the latest is a complete balls to the wall combination of the better parts of the previous pieces with plenty of blood, bullets and social commentary without overreaching or oversimplifying.


Presidential frontrunner Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her bodyguard Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo, our returning hero from “Anarchy”) barely escape an assassination attempt from current leadership heads, The New Founding Fathers who see Roan as a threat to their virtue, values and of course, their paramount view, the Purge itself. Hunted by Neo-Nazi mercenaries led by Earl Danzinger (Terry Serpico, real name no gimmicks who plays a perfect 80s style villian) while also avoiding roaming gangs, teenage revelers (in probably my favorite sequence in the entire film) and more leading to a final pre-election showdown where the candidates showcase their stance on the pressing issues…and it’s a debate you don’t want to miss.


The supporting cast is the real standout here with deli owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson) his steadfast employee Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria) and friend Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) who risks life & limb to provide triage truck services during each Purge. Saving Roan and Barnes from a group of Purge participants, they accompany them through to the very end with lots of laughs, insights and a truly American spirit of comradery and common vision; they believe not only in Roan but in the better nature of people and what the country was like before and could be again. Unlike most horror or thriller features, they are some of the most likeable characters I’ve seen in a while (besides the protagonists of the nearly perfect “Green Room”) as the audience can clearly identify with those  that face the same enemies every day; big government, the heartless insurance industry and  unending corporate greed.


Though the series begin as a global  take on “The Strangers” or “Them” albeit with a more direct purpose and dystopian setting, it has been duly noted by many fans and film critics that the second and third Purges have a heavy John Carpenter influence with “Anarchy” feeling like someone’s best attempt to honor “Escape From New York” or even “Assault on Precinct 13 while the trilogy’s end parallels “They Live” with the exception that the truth is not obfuscated without exceptional eye wear – it’s plain to see everywhere for those who are looking for it. As I watched “Election Year” I even felt there was some kinship with “Prince of Darkness” – the Purge is evil but it did not necessarily begin that way and it certainly does not feel unholy or impure to its practitioners.


There are a multitude of both professional assessors and audience members alike who will equate this as a very simple, incredibly timely cinematic comparison of the likely runoff between Presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton but I never felt that either Roan or Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor) were transparent fill ins for either candidate. It is also definitely not a simple left and right wing battle analogy as The Founding Fathers, while sharing some obvious Republican hallmarks (though not nearly as scathing as the Tea Party parody in the initial installment) are almost an exact copy of Dan Brown’s Opus Dei pulled directly from the page of “The Da Vinci Code” whereas Roan and her party are more of a generalized middle ground whose primary point of contention is the Purge and not the Democrats growing laundry list of top “triggers” of the week. Most will find themselves rooting for Roan not out of leftist loyalty but for her critique that the Purge is about making money and misery off the suffering of the poor and weak for the amusement and appetites of the rich and powerful, transcending racial and religious lines to get to the black heart of the matter in the film and in our all too real society: if you don’t have wealth, what are you worth?


As we are passing the mid-point for horror and exploitation film in the Teens, there are plenty of growing pains for the genre but for every individual living in the past bemoaning that the golden years are long gone, there is a glimmer of hope with series like The Purge. They may be imperfect but so were a good chunk of their forebears from generations past. They at least make an effort to create a new world where growth is possible, commentary remains vibrant and there is still enough young blood to keep the red deep in the trio of American hues; “The Purge: Election Year” is a winning vote for the future of horror.