Written by: Adrienne Clark
Directed by: James DeMonaco
Cast: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson
OK, let’s get this out of the way right from the start. I love bad movies. I don’t just mean the Killer Klowns and Troll 2s that we all love to hate. I mean bad. I can get down with even the unwatchable stuff; I’m talking the Psycho 4s of the world and much much worse. So if anyone was primed to be able to appreciate The Purge: Election Day it was me.
This installment of the popular franchise follows Charlie Rhone (Elizabeth Mitchell), a young senator who wants to end purge night once and for all. We see, in the first of several vignette-style sequences, that Charlie was the sole survivor of an attack on her family on purge night 18 years before–something you probably all already know because you’ve seen the trailer, which basically shows you the entire movie. In fact, if your tolerance for mindless horror films is low, I would suggest just watching the trailer three times and calling it good.
Remember though, I love bad movies, and so I have to admit, this movie was a pretty good time. Sure, the characters are so underdeveloped that they might as well be paper dolls. Yeah, the conflicts are set up in such an infantile way that it may have been written in crayon. True, I did stop paying attention a couple times as the characters repeated the same information to each other over and over. But that’s part of the charm! It’s silly, it’s simplistic, and it’s fun.
The real reason to go to see any Purge movie is for the imagery. For all that these movies lack in depth they make up in gorgeous, intimidating, and imaginative visuals. The beautiful sequence of young women wearing tutus and carrying bejeweled weapons while cruising in a Christmas light-covered car and blaring Miley Cyrus was worth sitting through the rest. Not to mention the breathtaking, slow motion guillotine clip, which graced the screen for just a few seconds and was one of my favorite moments in the film.
Even though the film takes a shallow approach to storytelling, there are a few good ideas buried in the corners. One came while our heroes walked down a seemingly abandoned alley. Leo (remember him from the last movie? Yup, still played by a humorless Frank Grillo) hits a trip wire with his foot causing an enormous ax to swing back and forth. The creators of this trap can be heard off-screen as they drunkenly cheer for their death device and jeer when the heroes escape unharmed.
I liked this small moment. It felt a little more real than the rest of the film. In fact, it felt like the kind of messed up stunt actual people would do. I don’t believe that everyone would be running around on purge night in masks shooting each other up. I can, however, see a bunch of bros setting up a giant ax trap and then watching what happens from the safety of a second-story window.
Another great conceptual idea dealt with murder tourism. A news story in the film featured Russian young people who have come to America specifically for the purge. This set up had a pretty weak pay off, but the idea of murder tourism struck me as one that could hold water in a real-life scenario.
The only thing about this movie that is unconscionable was its racism-as-comedy. It’s laced throughout the film, but there are a few blatant moments. The most memorable one being the moment that an African-American character refers to the passengers in a van as a “bucket of fried chicken.” It’s time for movies to stop doing this type of thing. It’s a cheap attempt at being funny made by an unimaginative writer, and it’s beneath even an exploitation film such as this one.
Go see The Purge: Election Year for an empty-calorie feast of blood, death, and destruction. I liked it, and if you liked the first two, then you probably will too.