The Purge: Election Year (2016) – 31 Days of Horror: Oct 04

by Jovial Jay

The Purge: Election Year was a film I had on my list from last year that did not make the cut. It still seems like a timely film, and I’m interested to see how it holds up given the political climate in America.

This will be the first Purge film I’ll have seen. I am aware of the premise of the franchise: that one night a year, laws are repealed and crime is legal. The Purge: Election Year entry of the franchise (the third film in a growing lineup), appears to be a pretty straightforward storyline based on the trailer.

Before Viewing

A female Senator, hires a number of security personnel to protect her on Purge night. A rival (presumably her opponent in the upcoming election) vows to have her “done away with” during the Purge. There appear many harrowing moments of the attack and an escape from danger, when a couple other men show up and offer to help the Senator. Are they good or bad? Does the male Senator win or can the female Senator save herself with the help of her bodyguard? That’s my mission, to find out, and I choose to accept it!

Presented below is the Trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - HalloweenAfter Viewing

The Purge: Election Year does not try to be coy about its intentions or subtle about its politics. The film follows Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), who lost her family in a Purge 18 years prior. She is actively running for President of the United States against Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor) on the platform that she will eliminate the Purge if elected. Minister Owens is a member of, and backed strongly by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), the group that 20 years previous instituted the Purge. Her bodyguard, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) will do everything in his power to protect her on the night of the Purge, when the NFFA announces that they have rescinded the protections offered to Government employees, which leaves Senator Roan vulnerable.

The NFFA hold a meeting and this group of (mostly) old white men, decide that Roan should be terminated during the Purge (they also call her a lot of very not nice names!) They send a group of militant white supremacists to invade her home, helped out by a couple of staffers that allow them access. Roan and Barnes manage to escape and make their way through the streets of Washington DC avoiding as much trouble as they can, until they are attacked by a number of foreign tourists who are visiting in order to participate in the Purge. The Senator and her bodyguard are saved by Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson) and Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria), the proprietors of a local deli.

They are also aided by Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) who drives a triage wagon around during the Purge to assist residents. After fighting off some other Purgers together they wind up in a safe house run by Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge) who, along with a number of other volunteers, is planning to murder Minister Owens and as many NFFA members as possible in the church which the NFFA are holed up inside. Senator Roan begs them not to kill the NFFA, saying she can win the election on her own.

It’s soon a moot point, as the Senator is kidnapped and taken to the church. So Barnes, Bishop and the team need to stage a rescue mission. After much bloodshed, Barnes and Dixon sacrifice themselves to protect the Senator, and Roan is freed. The film ends stating that she, in fact, did win and was repealing the Purge, but some Pro-NFFA groups were starting to riot!

We are not hypocrites! We practice what we preach.” – Minister Edwidge Owens

I would term this less as a ‘horror’ film and more as a ‘terror’ film. The incidents are horrific, but the tension in the film comes from the terrible things that the citizens are willing to do to each other, and the unknown nature of what to expect. All in all it’s a horrific premise that a country, such as America, could devolve into a state which something like a Purge would be tolerated and even celebrated.

This third Purge film gave me a distinct vibe of Escape from New York. Both involve a tough, lead character having to rescue a politician from a city that is under siege by blood thirsty crazies. And while both films deal with the haves and have-nots Election Year puts a ultra-contemporary spin on things.

Election Year takes the news from the front pages and spins it into a parable for our times. The Purge, as a near-metaphor for the oppression suffered by minorities, immigrants and the poor, is not so subtle. I see the reflection of modern society all too clearly in the NFFA, with their use of white supremacy groups to do their dirty work, and the Black Live Matter movement paralleled in Dante Bishop’s militant group, fighting to keep the rights of minorities and homeless citizens during a night of government sanctioned bloodshed.

I was never scared during the film, but was concerned for the characters and what they would resort to for their particular causes. The filmmakers paint the NFAA in an ill-light, while seemingly praising Senator Roan and her group. Again, there’s really no mystery to the motivations behind this story. The Purge: Election Year works as an urgent cautionary tale, at a time in the nation’s history when civil and human rights are being challenged daily by a partisan system.

Assorted Musings

  • This is Frank Grillo’s 2nd Purge film. He was the star of The Purge: Anarchy (2014).
  • A Purge television show started in September 2018 on USA Network.
  • For a horror film this has quite a number of recognizable actors: Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost), Frank Grillo (Captain America films), Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump), Betty Gabriel (Get Out), and Ethan Phillips (Star Trek Voyager).

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