The Purge: Election Year (2016) Review

The Purge: Election Year (2016)

Directed & Written by James DeMonaco

Starring: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel, Terry Serpico, Raymond J. Barry, Edwin Hodge, Kyle Secor, Liza Colón-Zayas, David Aaron Baker, Christopher James Baker, Britanny Mirabile, Juani Feliz, Roman Blat, Jamal Peters, J. Jewels

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Years after sparing the man who killed his son, former police sergeant Barnes has become head of security for Senator Charlie Roan, a Presidential candidate targeted for death on Purge night due to her vow to eliminate the Purge.

My Opinion:

I’ve really liked all three of these movies & they’ve even gone up in my estimation over time. After this final film, I can say that I think this has been a very solid trilogy overall. I wasn’t disappointed with this (final?) film and can confirm that we do get a conclusion of sorts. As much as I’ve enjoyed these, I hope they leave this as a trilogy instead of milking it to death the way they do with so many other movies nowadays. Learn when to stop, Hollywood! I think this trilogy will end up more respected in the future if they end it here.

I did quite long reviews/discussions of the first film (HERE) and the second, The Purge: Anarchy, (HERE). Both times I said that I absolutely love the overall concept but wish they could do a bit more with it. I’ve lost track of how far into the future these are meant to be set but know it’s not too far (I think the first one was about nine years into the future?). The future setting is completely unnecessary anyway as they don’t look much different from modern day America and this is especially true of Election Year, which I felt finally managed to get its point across slightly more than the first two films.

The idea of an annual “Purge”, in which all crime including murder is legal for one night, seemed somewhat far-fetched when the first film came out in 2013 so it’s scary that it no longer feels quite so unlikely just three years later. The idea behind these films is brilliant in that I know they’re meant to be a social commentary on the state of America & to almost be a warning of the way things feel they’re headed. Election Year comes the closest yet to making some sort of important statement & has come out at the perfect time but it still doesn’t quite manage to drive home the fact that people need to wake up & do something if they don’t want the dystopian future predicted in so many great works of fiction over the years. It’s becoming reality now. We’re seriously f*^ked.

Election Year is the strangest of the three in that I think I actually enjoyed it the most but, at times, it’s also the most ridiculous of the three. It tries to be entertaining as well as smart & the two don’t always work together. I’m anti-violence so am a fan of these because they’re trying to show that violence is wrong (while at the same time showing us extreme violence). This isn’t the first time this has been done but it’s very hard to do right (I felt that Natural Born Killers got this right, which I watched for the first time this year & thought was really good). The Purge movies feel like they’re a little too scared to get too serious & still aim to mainly please the horror-loving mainstream audience who won’t care about the message.

I still maintain the unpopular opinion that the first film is the “best” as it was such an original idea and didn’t feel the need to go over the top while the next two were more “fun” as they changed things up to appeal to a more mainstream audience. I do like that each film goes wider to show us the effects the Purge has had, which is what I was hoping for after the first film. They even threw a tiny bit into this one regarding other countries (murder tourists coming to America to join in on the annual Purge). But the baddies were such over the top caricatures in this film that it was too silly at times, which was a shame as I really liked everything else about the film.

I have to say that the main characters in Election Year (the good guys) are the best of all three films, though, making this movie the most enjoyable. Frank Grillo was great in the second one so I’m glad they chose to continue with him, linking these two and making the first one feel more like a stand alone film now. I always liked Elizabeth Mitchell in Lost & loved her in this (the only way I’d maybe want a sequel would be to hopefully see her hook up with Grillo’s character!). Can I vote for her NOW? She’s what real-life America needs & I totally agree with her politics. Then there are the three in the below photo: deli owner Mykelti Williamson, his employee Joseph Julian Soria, and kick-ass customer & friend Betty Gabriel. These three are so damn likable and, as I said, Betty Gabriel is totally kick-ass. My only complaint is that they’re almost too likable & their fate(s) extremely predictable. But, hell – I honestly don’t mind characters who are a bit cliché since it beats having a movie filled with main characters you hate. I’d happily be stuck with this group of people on Purge night.

This has admittedly been a very weak year for movies but I can honestly say that this is currently my third favorite film of 2016. I know I like this series more than most people seem to but I’m hoping these will gain more of a following (probably several years from now when these are likely to be even closer to reality & people realize how accurate they were). The characters are a bit too cliché to take too seriously but they were a lot of fun to watch & the story was probably the strongest overall of the three. It’s still not perfect but I appreciate the effort they’ve made with this series & its overall idea.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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The Purge: Anarchy (2014) Review

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The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Directed by James DeMonaco

Starring:
Frank Grillo
Carmen Ejogo
Zach Gilford
Kiele Sanchez
Michael K. Williams

Running time: 103 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Three groups of people are trying to survive Purge Night, when their stories intertwine and they are left stranded in The Purge trying to survive the chaos and violence that occurs.

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My Opinion:

I’ll be honest – I liked the first The Purge and my opinion wasn’t all that popular when I reviewed it (review HERE). Well, my opinion of it has actually gone up since then (I gave it a 6.5/10 & said it was almost a 7/10). I remember I later reviewed You’re Next (HERE) and annoyed a few people when I declared that I preferred The Purge to You’re Next (and I stand by my opinion). Is The Purge: Anarchy better than the first Purge film? It would certainly seem so as it did better at the box office (I believe) and has a much higher IMDB rating. Well, it’s not better! The first was better! IMDB users confuse me these days. This wasn’t horrible or anything – it was okay as far as sequels go but it was just a bit “what’s the point?”.

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I found it interesting that this movie didn’t have any well known actors in it. I prefer that sometimes, especially with movies like these as I think it’s easier to buy into an original sort of concept such as this one when you don’t end up sitting there thinking “It’s Ethan Hawke!” the whole time. Having said that, though, I think the first film still did a slightly better job of making its point than the sequel did. However, both films left me disappointed as neither one really explored all the moral implications involved in having one night a year in which all crime, including murder, is legal. This was my main complaint about the first film – GREAT concept but not that well executed. When I heard there would be a sequel, I knew it would go one of two ways: it would either be a more intelligent film than the first one & would aim to be more “thriller” than horror or it would decide to up the violence and be more of a horror movie with more action & even less exploration of the effects on America of having an annual “Purge” night. Then Michael Bay’s name was attached to it & I was like “Shit!”.

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Luckily, The Purge: Anarchy isn’t a total Michael Bay disaster (he was only a producer so I don’t know if he actually had much involvement). They did up the action compared to the first one and there were more characters & storylines going on as the first film focused just on one home invasion whereas this one focused on a group of people caught outside on Purge night. Anarchy also added a Saw/Texas Chainsaw Massacre-like character that felt a little silly and it shoved the “rich vs poor” thing down our throats WAY too much. I was disappointed with the message being so heavy handed in this one and I still feel like they need to try one more time to take this idea & do it properly. There’s so much wasted potential with both these films! Since the first movie was about one family & the second was about a small group of people in one city, it would be good if the third one could show us the effects the Purge has had on all of America further down the line (I could be wrong but I think these two films are set only a year apart). Yeah? Someone give me some money – I want to make the third film myself!

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Summary:

The Purge: Anarchy is an okay film with a great concept. I still think the first film is superior as, although it had its flaws, it was more intense and worked as a somewhat scary home invasion movie (I thought it felt a lot like The Strangers, which I found genuinely creepy unlike the majority of modern horror films). The characters are a bit more likeable in the second film but the story is much more predictable (especially the final outcome for our main “hero”). The message is too in-your-face in that sort of “we’re assuming our target audience is dumb” kind of way that always annoys me. Neither Purge film comes close to living up to the potential of the simple yet brilliant idea of “America having an annual Purge Night” and the second film, although it tries much harder to make a point, does a poor job of it by simplifying the story too much and turning it into more of a social commentary on the current state of affairs in America as opposed to the future America portrayed in the film. But I suppose that is kind of the point as this is only set several years into the future and the America in these movies feels no different to the America of today (just as heavily armed but, for one night a year, you’re allowed to kill anyone you please). If I were to stop overthinking things, I’d have to say I think both these movies aren’t too bad & I liked them both (especially the first one – it’s a good home invasion movie at the very least). I just get frustrated by movies that have so much wasted potential and end up being a little more harsh on them than I would be on a big “popcorn blockbuster”. I still hope, if there’s a third film, that it aims more for the intelligent thriller genre than horror. These movies seem just a little too confused as to which genre and target audience they’re aiming for.

My Rating: 7/10

**Rating upped after watching the final film, The Purge: Election Year, as I think this is a very solid trilogy & the first two films have gone up even more in my estimation.

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**FYI – I went to Secret Cinema (Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back) in London last night. It was a fun experience! I’d not done a Secret Cinema before. I’ll try to get a post together about it soon. 🙂

The Purge (2013) Review

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The Purge

Directed by James DeMonaco

Starring:

Ethan Hawke
Lena Headey
Max Burkholder
Adelaide Kane
Edwin Hodge
Rhys Wakefield
Tony Oller
Arija Bareikis

Plot Synopsis:

In 2022 America, all crime is legal for one night of every year. Unemployment & the crime rate are at an all time low thanks to this annual 12-hour period, known as The Purge, when people are allowed the opportunity to get out all their aggressions.

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My Opinion:

First of all, it actually wasn’t until looking for the images to use in this review that I saw the poster saying “from the producer of Paranormal Activity & Sinister”. I’m glad I didn’t know that beforehand because I’d have skipped The Purge. Luckily, it’s better than those. Paranormal Activity was… Meh. Sinister actually started out very promising and I found it pretty creepy at first but then it got extremely stupid & left me very pissed off. The Purge has the same eerie feel & tension that the start of Sinister has but manages to maintain that throughout the whole film.

I enjoyed this movie more than I was expecting. It’s kind of a weird one, though – it’s somewhere in between “suspenseful thriller” (like Panic Room but nowhere near as good) and “horror” (like The Strangers – it felt VERY similar to this movie). I can see people not liking The Purge if they’re expecting it to fit nicely into just one of those two categories. It’s actually considered “science fiction”, however – I guess as it takes place in a dystopian future? It just doesn’t feel like “the future” as it’s only nine years from now so I guess that’s why it doesn’t feel like science fiction. (Did you notice how I used the word “dystopian” there? Look at me using big words & stuff!). 🙂

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I’m not sure what to say now. I’m not entirely sure why I liked this film. I went to it only because I heard what it was about and really liked the concept. With so many sequels and remakes and the rehashing of the same old stories over and over again these days, it was great to hear about a movie plot that felt like a fresh new idea (although I’m sure it’s been done somewhere?). All crime legal for one night- It’s a great concept for a film! Very simple yet with SO many possibilities. There were so many ways this movie could have played out. Is it as good as its concept? No, unfortunately not. It tries to demonstrate the (obvious) moral implications involved in people going around and doing any horrible thing they desire for one night each year. But it never really manages to be “deep”. The Purge feels like a wasted opportunity – a high concept that’s not explored in depth. However, I did still enjoy it. I mean, it’s only 85 minutes and it’s from the producer of Paranormal Activity & Sinister – you’re not going to get something too deep & meaningful. As long as you don’t go to it expecting that, you might enjoy it. It’s a popcorn movie that happens to have good original concept. I think this is one of those that’s easier to discuss by breaking it down into the “good” and “not so good” bits.

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The Good:

– The concept

– The moral implications involved in a night of purging (although only touched on a little bit in this film)

– The creepy masks & the “baddies”. I’m not going to go into the plot too much as I try to keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible. The trailer gives away a lot more about this movie so I can say the story centers on one family (Ethan Hawke & Lena Headey and their son & daughter) in their secured home on the night of The Purge and the people who are trying to enter their house. The masks were creepy. There’s just something about faceless strangers committing acts of evil – I find that frightening. Yes, it’s VERY similar to The Strangers, which I liked but I know not everyone did. If you liked that, you might like The Purge.

– The doll’s head. It’s creepy. What’s creepier than people in masks? Freaking DOLLS.

– The “haves” vs the “have nots”. Naturally, in a future where a night of legalized crime exists, it’s those who have the money to arm themselves and secure their homes who have the least to worry about. Again, though, this is something that could have been explored more fully but I thought they did a decent enough job of getting this point across in 85 minutes.

– The suspense. It’s pretty good through the whole film. Things are always pretty tense.

– The boy looked like Skrillex. Especially when wearing his glasses. (Can’t find a picture with the glasses).

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The Not So Good:

– A great concept not explored in depth

– A few things were WAY too obvious and predictable. But I can’t discuss them without spoilers.

– The daughter is unnecessarily in her school uniform (with the shortest school uniform skirt EVER) the entire time. (And the male readers are now wondering why this is listed under “not so good”. Lol). Because, like the underwear scene in Into Darkness, it doesn’t make sense. There’s no reason for it.

– The characters of the central family & their neighbors. They just came across as very “sheltered” from the realities of the nights of The Purge (other than the son who actually questions things a little). I know the point is that they’re rich so they don’t have to worry about it. It’s not their “problem”. But this is only nine years from now. It just seems a bit weird that The Purge has been so readily accepted as a necessary thing. It just didn’t feel QUITE like how people would actually behave if this was reality. (But the scary thing is that I may be wrong). I think this movie probably would have worked a bit better set a little further into the future.

– The genre.The feeling that the movie doesn’t quite know where it “fits”. Thriller? Horror? Science fiction? I just feel like, in the right hands, this concept could have been turned into an absolutely brilliant film. It makes me wish the central idea could be reused and turned into a suspenseful thriller that also explores all the moral issues. Done by David Fincher? I think he could make something great out of this. Christopher Nolan? Heck… Maybe even Lars Von Trier – he’d make something interesting out of this concept. (Look at me trying to sound like a smart film person – I think I’ve only ever seen one Lars Von Trier film. Lol!). Cronenberg might be a good one too… Oh, he’d make an awesome movie out of this. Dammit – I want someone to completely remake this now!

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Summary:

The Purge is a movie with an excellent concept that’s never fully explored in depth. It feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity but is still enjoyable enough as a simple 85 minute popcorn flick. There are moments that are actually pretty tense & frightening and I stayed gripped until the end. It doesn’t quite know which genre it’s aiming for or maybe even what kind of an audience it’s aiming for, though. Some will like it, some will hate it. I enjoyed it quite a bit even though I was a little disappointed when thinking about how great the movie COULD have been in different hands. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone but I would if I thought it was someone’s sort of thing. But I’d definitely recommend going to it with an open mind and not expecting to learn anything deep and meaningful about the human condition that we don’t all already know.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**Rating upped after watching the final film, The Purge: Election Year, as I think this is a very solid trilogy & the first two films have gone up even more in my estimation.

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