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Review: 'The Purge' hits its stride in 'Election Year'

Posted Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at 4:06 PM Central
Last updated Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at 4:06 PM Central

by John Couture

Two down, two to go. Are you still with us?

In a year in which neither of the two mainstream party candidates for President is particularly well-liked, a film like The Purge: Election Year is like picking low-hanging fruit. I don't think you would have a hard time finding volunteers who would be willing to track down and enact some Purge-like justice on Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Of course, the country is so widely divided that we find ourselves at a crossroads where the dystopian future of the Purge films has never seemed more like a real possibility.

I will admit it. In fact, I think I've said it on here a few times, but I didn't particularly care for the first Purge film. I thought that the story had potential, but that the film devolved into clich├ęs and didn't really allow the viewer to explore the interesting ramifications of such a world in which the idea of a Purge exists.

After I knew that I would be reviewing The Purge: Election Year, I went back and watched The Purge: Anarchy and I found that I enjoyed that film much more than the original one. I think it had to do with the fact that in the second film, we aren't trapped in the house for the entire duration of the film.

While I get it. The isolation of the first film helps to sell the horror that the first family felt over that one night. But, the interesting thing about the Purge is what happens throughout the country and we start to get some insight into that in The Purge: Anarchy.

With The Purge: Election Year, we finally get to see the very real political and social implications of a society that allows its citizens to perform any heinous act without penalties for one night. Better yet, we start to see the motivations behind the acts of the New Founding Fathers and how they are able to exploit The Purge for economic and social advantage.

Better yet, we are finally given some insight into the counter-culture elements that are fighting back against the new establishment. In particular, Edwin Hodge's character is able to fully realize his character's arc that has played out over the course of all three films. Also back this time around is Frank Grillo's Leo character which was a high point of The Purge: Anarchy.

This time around Leo is the personal security guard of the Presidential candidate from the opposition party and it's his duty to protect her (played to perfection by Elizabeth Mitchell) when her Purge protection is rescinded. Usually, by the third film in a horror franchise, the plot devolves to unfathomable death scenes that even a 10-year-old would scoff at. There is very little plot or character development and the mantra is more blood, more guts.

The Purge: Election Year, however, takes a vastly different approach in which they tell a pretty compelling story against the backdrop of The Purge. Instead of being a leading character in this story, The Purge itself is a bit player that provides all of the punch to make the story believable.

Of course, if it's death scenes that you are looking for, don't worry, there are plenty of those as well. I'm torn because while the film ends at a point where it could ride off into the sunset and not be known as the horror franchise that went to the well one or ten too many times.

And yet, maybe it's because I'm late to the party, but I sort of want to see them explore this interesting landscape some more because I think there are some things still left to be told.