James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Cole Clay//Film Critic
The following contains mild spoilers for THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR
A few critics and colleagues who saw the third film in THE PURGE series, THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR had an adverse reaction to the theatrics and brutality of the film. While it’s far from being a masterpiece, with a few certain criticisms valid, I responded to the film quite positively.
If you aren’t aware of this thriller, it’s about a world where crime is down in America and the economy is flourishing because for 12 hours, one night a year, all crimes are legal, including murder.
Detractors — including Courtney Howard’s review, which you can find here — didn’t think the film delved deep enough into the political allegories that I think are presented elegantly with a hint of pulp charm. It’s used as a vessel for the central characters from all backgrounds, ethnically and socioeconomically.
While director of the franchises three entries, James DeMonaco may haven’t fully realized the wealth of connections he made with what our nation is going through today, there are other, albeit more superficial things on his mind: the mantra of annual holiday seemingly is that it’s cool to be cruel. And, of course, THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR revels in the carnage, and many have recoiled a bit at the bloodthirsty world DeMonaco has created. While I think this film is far from perfect, there’s some brilliant commentary dressed up as a harrowing thriller; but the beauty of this film is it’s both things all wrapped up into one blood-soaked death ride. So here’s a summation of a few things ELECTION YEAR gets right.
CONNECTIONS TO DONALD TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN SLOGAN
OK, bringing up Donald Trump in this political climate is far too easy and we’re NOT, I repeat, NOT going to declare any sort of political allegiance here. We’re talking about a movie, and it’s not November.
In THE PURGE, the New Founding Fathers set forth a new and “divine” standard to save the American people from a collapsing economy that was bringing the nation to its knees. And out of the ashes of our collapsed government came a new society where anybody within the borders of the United States is able to “purge” out their frustrations from the other 364 days out of the year.
Now, America is thriving and our country is more patriotic than we’ve ever been. The wealthy “1 %” have declared in the film that “we’re a nation reborn.” This sent chills down my spine for hours just thinking about how similar it is to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great, Again” slogan he’s been pushing down the campaign trail. Maybe DeMonaco made that connection and threw the line into the script, but only he knows. But that singular line provided a whole new -and at times incredibly clever – nuance to a film where getting pointed social commentary wasn’t the reason why I attended the screening. It’s the small details to this world that amplify the stakes when the plotting starts to skid a bit.
THE DISENFRANCHISED ARE THE VICTIMS OF THE PURGE
In this world on Purge night, if you ain’t purging, you better get the hell out of dodge and take shelter quick. The problem with that for most people in America is we can’t afford to apply steel clad home protection that ward’s off those pesky murderers. Oh, and you better believe some of these people are psychotic.
In the film, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a potential Presidential nominee, is being hunted by the New Founding Fathers because she’s going to abolish the nation of its purging privileges. She claims she has to stay in the city among the people to sway public perception that she truly is a candidate made by the people, for the people.
Well, her house has some pretty heavy duty steel doors covering every window, door and mouse hole– you name it – it’s covered. Just thinking about how expensive that would be to the average person is astronomical. And not to mention, a local deli owner named Joe complains about his Purge Insurance premiums have skyrocketed over the years. This film has a rather cynical outlook that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette. Only the wealthy, or the fittest can truly survive.
While an underground bunker filled with the homeless and less fortunate ones are sequestered to hide from the blood-thirsty war mongers that are laying waste to the city streets. As ludicrous as this plotting may be in 2016, it rings true to our country in terms of the abundance of gentrification and how hard it is to make it in this world. The amount of money that’s poured into the economy based on one night of horror would, of course, be beneficial to the capitalist running the annual event. To me, this is utterly fascinating.
MURDER TOURISM IN THE PURGE
A huge enterprise in any country is international tourism, you have other people from other countries coming in spend a bunch of dollar bills and it’s great for capitalism. Well, in ELECTION YEAR, tourism manifests itself in murder.
The film depicts thousands of people flying over from other countries to maim and murder an unlucky group of U.S. citizens. I just think DeMonaco is tapping into something accessible and relevant to today. Our nation at this point has become xenophobic in some cases, becoming terrified of “foreigners” (used in the pejorative sense) coming to our country and killing our citizens, and as South Park so eloquently put it, “they took er jerbs” (they took our jobs).
While this is only granted lip service, there’s a whole lot of story within that 15-second nugget in the film. And while it’s not a fully realized presented topic, this is campy type of material riddled throughout the film– all you have to do is look a little harder.
While THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR has flaws (some I agree with) in terms of being able to fully grasp the tone and a ham-fisted scripting at times with (not-so) clever jokes, there’ some potent social commentary in the film that rings true and is at times pretty damn scary.
This type of grisly film isn’t for everybody, and while we’re sure-split on it here at Fresh Fiction, it’s an interesting premise that could be exercised into a damn good television show.
And lastly, you won’t leave the film feeling completely positive about the state of our government, but you’ll have a pretty damn good time binging on THE PURGE.
THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR opens nationwide today.