I did not see the first Purge, but I saw Anarchy and I really liked it. It had this John Carpenter feel that reminded by of Escape of New York with the premise and story. Then there is the propaganda element where the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) are the Right trying to suppress the poor and the Left are inherently good. It was ironic how the opposition contributed to the NFFA by fighting back (very Orwell) and the idea that the government killing the poor was heavy-handed, but I still had plenty fun despite the political themes. The film also made it clear that everyone purges, no matter their income or skin color. Does Purge: Election Year do more of the same or does it continue to evolve the premise from where Anarchy left off?
18 years after surviving the execution of her family on Purge Day Senator Roan, played by Elizabeth Mitchell, is running for president in hopes of ending the Purge. On the titular holiday mercenaries make an assassination attempt and her bodyguard Leo, played by Frank Grillo is forced to abandon their shelter, and escape into the chaotic streets of downtown DC.
If the title is any indication, the propaganda and contemporary parallels are in full swing. Considering the sermonizing about the System keeping people down, White Supremacist characters, and the idea of the Purge as a means to help the rich, I could not tell if I was watching a movie written by Cenk “Armenian Genocide Denier” Uygur or a Clinton campaign promo. The difficulty with talking about the film’s blatant sophistry, however, is that the background information does not make sense. I had this whole rebuttal lined up until I realized the story issues negated my whole argument like a paradox of bad writing.
According to this entry in the series, the NFFA and the Purge have been around for almost two decades. That is 20 years of Americans killing each other in the hundreds of thousands, for one day out of each year, and the NFFA reaping the benefits. One day of poor to middle class citizens wiping each other out would mean millions in profit in personal defense, funeral, and recovery spending. In that timespan of 20 years, America would be an economic paradise with better living standards and job opportunities.
However, after two decades only now are the people trying to stop the Purge? Yes, the NFFA accelerating the effects by hunting citizens with low income borders on genocide, but how is it any different than the rest of the country breaking the law? Also, if the Purge has been around for 20 years, why are they killing off the poor now? Would they not have to considering how much power they hold and that the lower classes have been diminished? At that point, only the rich would make up the remaining majority. I cannot find the answers because Election Year is too concerned with drawing parallels to our current political climate, spreading its pretentious message, and making the opposition look like racist religious nuts that enjoy killing.
Furthermore, the backstory is so inconsistent between this and Anarchy that I am convinced it was thought up on the fly just for this film. Is the Purge a new phenomenon or has it been around for 20 years because if memory serves me right, Anarchy described its Purge as the sixth annual. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but I have a feeling the writer did not think people were smart enough to notice this gross miscalculation.
Other than some grotesque imagery, there is nothing that classifies Election Year and the Purge series as horror. Jump-scares, patriotic music played over ultra violence, and bad actors trying to be scary is not scary. Most of the time I was rolling my eyes because the movie tries way too hard and thinks it is the next great name in horror. Like Anarchy, it works better as an action movie in the same vein as Carpenter, but for people who have never seen Escape from New York.
Performances were better with Grillo managing what he could while the rest of the cast pulled their share. The script is slightly better with the sermonizing reserved for making everyone but the good guys look like insane monsters. What matters is that everyone tried and that is all you can ask for.
It is not perfect, but Purge: Anarchy is leagues better than Election Year. Its message was also poorly delivered and ignorant, but it did not insult your intelligence and actively belittle you for your beliefs. The series is not supposed to be serious and it is technically satire, yet what Election Year has to say is pure ignorance. At least the last movie made a point to show that everyone is capable of being monsters, regardless of race or class. On that note, I recommend renting Election Year and watching Neon Demon in theaters instead.