Director: James DeMonaco
Cast: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Betty Gabriel, Joseph Julian Soria, Terry Serpico, Edwin Hodge
Plot: As an ambitious senator with dreams of banning the Purge gets close to the Presidency, assassins come after her on Purge Night.
The great thing about the Purge movies is that, while they haven’t been the best quality up to this point, the central idea is so strong, it only takes the right film to turn the bad critics around. Thankfully, finally, Election Year marks the moment that the Purge becomes essential viewing for any horror fans who like a slice of politics.
The Purge couldn’t have chosen a better time to get interesting either. The context of this film had never been stronger. When James DeMonaco started the Purge series, it was a slice of fantasy, a juicy ‘what if’ scenario where human nature was questioned. However, with rising gun crime in America, as well as the Presidency of Donald Trump, the Purge actually acts as a meaty comparison to hold up against the United States. For those movie audiences that believe that the right to bear arms is a law that needs to be amended, the Purge will actually seem like a frighteningly real prospect. James DeMonaco, apparently fuelled by the shocking politics going on in America right now, writes this terrifying context into the latest Purge script. Politicians are defending the Purge from opposing senators, perhaps unaware of how badly the poor are suffering, unable to properly defend themselves from the chaos unleashed on the streets. The script also takes time to voice the opinions of the people. As the anti-Purge senator pleas to people on the street, they voice the fact that they have no faith in the political system, perhaps offering an insight into how men like Trump can get voted in, or how gun crimes (or the Purge in this fictional world), can happen. While it can be argued that DeMonaco doesn’t truly get to grips with the issue at hand, skimming over the interesting political debate rather than diving into the meat of the story, it definitely adds a flavour to the narrative that the Purge films didn’t quite have before. It feels real, eerily close to what is happening in the world right now. Joseph Julian Soria’s character compares the night of the Purge to life on the streets of Mexico a few years back. The message is clear: what started out as a fun script is now scarily close to something that could actually happen, something the writing team are using to full effect.
But fans of an old-fashioned horror flick shouldn’t be intimidated by the rumours that Election Year is the most self-aware movie yet. DeMonaco only adds context to his story, but the emphasis is still set on fun. As soon as the politician angle is put into play, the violence is taken back out onto the streets. Frank Grillo’s survivalist character is back, now employed as a security chief for the senator looking to take down the Purge. When her political opponents come for her during Purge Night, they are forced onto the streets to survive. A shopkeeper finds himself screwed over by an insurance company (another example of the rich using politics to profit from the struggles of the poor) and is forced to defend his business from murderous looters on Purge night. And an ex-gang member, Betty Gabriel, looks for redemption by providing a vigilante ambulance service on Purge night. Perhaps even more interesting is the flashes of violence happening in the back drop of the Purge night. While many will be frustrated that the movie moves around too often to focus on a particular group of villains, the main difference between this film and the others, the ‘less-is-more’ approach gives this movie the impression that the gravity of this horror is bigger than anyone could imagine. Tourists flock to the States purely to Purge. Gangs have gladiator fights in the streets. A bloody woman sings to herself alone in the street. Sometimes the film is at its best when it simply shows a guillotine being used to bloody effect in the background of the film. Sadly, if Election Year gets one black mark to its name, the story moves along so swiftly, it ends up as a political action film rather than the horror its fans are expecting. But perhaps this one dull note can be seen as a promise of things to come. Election Year is easily the best Purge yet, but there is still some refining and improvements to be made. The next Purge, just around the corner, could be the best one yet.
Final Verdict: Election Year sees a Purge movie far more confident than its predecessors, making a superbly entertaining watch.