The Purge series has set itself as one of the front-runners in modern horror. The first film, starring Ethan Hawke, was a huge success, bringing with it one of the best stories seen in the genre for decades.
Its successor, Anarchy, was warmly received – namely for its greater focus on the night of crime itself, rather than the plight of one family. Naturally, another sequel was always going to be on the cards and Election Year continues the franchise. But does it continue the positive trend?
With only one returning cast member, Frank Grillo’s brooding Leo Barnes, The Purge: Election Year goes for a more political approach than its horror-rooted predecessors and director James DeMonaco was brave in altering the formula. He gets through it – but only by the skin of his teeth.
As a young girl, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) survived the annual night of lawlessness that took the lives of her family members. As a presidential candidate, Roan is determined to end the yearly tradition of blood lust once and for all. When her opponents hatch a deadly scheme, the senator finds herself trapped on the streets of Washington, D.C., just as the latest Purge gets underway. Now, it’s up to Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), her head of security, to keep her alive during the next 12 hours of mayhem.
The first major stumbling block Election Year faces is its lack of originality. Yes, the basic formula goes for a more political tone but the story itself is a near carbon copy of its predecessor. It’s unfortunate that once again, despite the plight of fans, the production studio continues to overlook the most fascinating part of the Purge, its inception.
Once again we are forced to sit through the hack and slash killings, only this time the acting isn’t as good and the majority of scares are signposted from the off. The ones that aren’t; well they’re in the trailer. It’s such a shame that a series with such promise has resorted to rehashing the same “tricks” to sell tickets.
The cast gel together well but the acting is below par and the dialogue is at times, dreadful with the same three expletives doing the rounds from character to character. Frank Grillo is underused with Elizabeth Mitchell’s preachy politician mistakenly put in the foreground. By far the most interesting person throughout the course of the film is Mykelti Williamson’s deli owner Joe, but he is lumbered with shockingly bad catchphrases.
The cinematography is very plain and the city setting isn’t utilised well at all. Washington should’ve been an exceptional place to helm a film about a night of legalised murder, but instead the audience is confined to its dimly-lit backstreets and alleys.
Overall, The Purge: Election Year is a step in the wrong direction for a series that showed such promise. Creating a film that, despite its intriguing political intentions, is exactly the same as its predecessor is sheer laziness and I don’t like to use this word when reviewing films, but it’s just completely and utterly boring.
The Purge: Election Year rating: 5/10
An avid lover of all things film, Adam Brannon has grown up with a huge passion for cinema that can be traced right back to his favourite childhood movie, Steven Spielberg's smash hit, Jurassic Park. After graduating from the University of Lincoln with a degree in journalism, he now writes film reviews for his own website, Movie Metropolis and for the Press Association.