Director: James DeMonaco
Cast: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zoe Soul, Kiele Sanchez, Zach Gilford
Plot: A group of strangers band together for survival when trapped out on a deadly Purge night.
The Purge is a strange creature. That first film was a disappointing, over-hyped horror movie. However, despite the flawed pacing and awkward narrative, there was something so special about the concept of this franchise that it was easy to get wrapped up in the hype of a sequel regardless. There is a powerful story here just waiting to be told and no matter the quality of each Purge film, audiences clamour to the sequels just on the off-chance they will get that film they deserve.
The Purge: Anarchy appears to be correcting its main flaws as it goes along. Out of all of the entries in to the franchise, Anarchy is almost the most important, setting the trend for how the sequels progress. Thankfully, in terms of a creator for the bar the other Purge films need to reach, Anarchy succeeds. It doesn’t get too hung up on the film that came before, deciding that the story of the Purge lends itself to multiple villains and scenarios. Therefore, we get a brand new group of antagonists to spend the movie with and the home invasion is scrapped for something more exciting. DeMonaco realises the scale of his concept and focuses on three different stories on a Purge night, weaving them together as the narrative goes along. Carmen Ejogo and her daughter, Zoe Soul, find themselves being hunted by a professional kill team. Bickering couple Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford find themselves stranded out in the open, as their car breaks down on Purge night. And finally, Frank Grillo’s scene-stealing Sergeant, is a mysterious stranger with a car full of weapons and crimes to commit before the Purge night is through. The genius of this approach to the Purge movies is that we get a wider look at the Purge night. While the first Purge picked a viewpoint of the night and closely focused on it, Anarchy gives us several perspectives of the night and, while we don’t really get that depth that we crave, we leave with a better understanding of the Purge phenomenon. It’s not just the main narrative, but having the sequel take part in the thick of the streets, rather than trapped behind the doors of a safehouse, gives us small beats where we examine the wider world. A passive stranger takes a crate of beers and a sniper rifle to the roof and waits. The rich pay people to volunteer themselves as sacrificial murder victims. Black market auctions for hunting victims down in a kill room take place in the dark underbelly of the streets.
However, while the Purge: Anarchy is definitely a step in the right direction, it is still a bit disappointing. While the wider perspective to the Purge night is fascinating, DeMonaco feels far too distracted with everything. Anarchy is played fast and loose, picking up interesting ideas before dropping them. There are quite a few intriguing ideas thrown into the story that are never fully resolved. For example, the creepy masked hunters on the main film posters get a reveal halfway through the film and then no longer take part in the story. It is also slightly upsetting to have some truly great actors, Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, in the first film, for Anarchy to downgrade the audience to some unknown actors and some weaker characters. Only Frank Grillo truly hits the spot in terms of performance and characterisation. The problem with the Purge is that it is such a great idea that the last two films just feel like they don’t live up to the promise. It has the opportunity to be that bridge between the silly, jump scare horror movies and the slower paced high-end horrors – a film that gives us the Friday night spook film yet has a cracking narrative behind it as well. The Purge is fascinating because the monster of the film is our human nature. If consequences were removed from the situation, what would we, as humans, be capable of doing? It is spooky to watch reasonable characters become merciless as soon as the Purge begins. It questions if this possibility of brutality is capable in everyone deep down. What we need is a movie that properly explores that rather than seemingly making it up as it goes along, as we have had twice before.
Regardless, I am still hooked on watching the next one. The Purge thrives on what it could be, rather than what it is, yet again.
Final Verdict: Once again, the second Purge film is not the film we quite want, even if it does explore some wider ideas, building a better insight into this scary universe.