by Sherry Lipp
Surely The Purge: Election Year went into production before the current presidential nominees had been decided, but the film couldn’t have asked for a better political backdrop for its release. If there’s one thing this film aims to do, besides offering blood-spattered entertainment, it’s to remind us the importance of voting. That particular message is not subtle in any way here. The political divide makes this the most ambitious Purge film yet, but the film is at its best when it focuses on the plight of the common man.
Election Year is the third film in this surprisingly successful franchise. While I wouldn’t call these films horror classics, I do like that they have done something different with each one. The first film focused on a single family trying to ward off purgers invading their home, the second film had people fleeing through a lawless city, and not the third one is focused on the politics of the whole thing. What I liked about this one is that we got to see a few different sides as the purge commenced.
Naturally some backlash against the “purge and purify” philosophy developed by the new founding fathers has developed in the many years since the purge was enacted. Perhaps people don’t think cold-blooded murder is the way to go after all. Honestly the whole thing is pretty ludicrous, but it’s a metaphor for the divide between the have and the have-nots.
Do the haves always win? Election Year would not like us to think so. Young senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) wants to go up against the whole establishment and abolish the purge. As a teenager she lost her entire family during the annual ordeal and she will stop at nothing to put an end to it. She’s the top presidential candidate on the ant-purge side and all she has to do is make it through the election year purge.
That’s no easy task because her pro-purge opponent wants to take her out. Literally. Luckily she has Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), from Purge: Anarchy, as her personal bodyguard. The pair work their way through the violent streets of Washington D.C. to find a safe place to wait out the night. It’s the people they meet that are the most interesting.
What does the average person do on purge night? Most people hole up in their homes to wait it out. Shop owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson) has to spend the night in his shop due to his “purge insurance” lapsing because of his price-gouging insurance company. Apparently in this day and age an insurance company can demand payment on the spot or cancel. At any rate he has to defend his shop against a particularly ruthless group of teenage girls. Think teenage girls aren’t all that scary? These are.
Election Year gives us a glimpse of good along with the horrendous in this one. There are people trying to fight the system and make a difference any way they can. These elements are slight additions to the film, but they do add depth. However, if you want to see blood and mayhem, there’s plenty of that too.