The general consensus regarding the first Purge movie was that it wasted a fairly novel premise by focusing entirely on one family in a movie that presents the high-concept, dystopian notion that the U.S.A. officially adopts Murder-‘ween as a holiday in the very near future. In short, a home invasion movie doesn’t benefit from or enhance a specific, inventive dystopian setting. The Purge: Anarchy basically validated that critique, as it’s a much better and more interesting movie than its predecessor. Opening the world up allowed viewers to see the socio-political subtext of the first film become text, and not in a bad way (subtlety is, well, I won’t say overrated, but it isn’t always the better option), and it also allowed the action to expand beyond the somewhat stale limits of home invasion horror flicks.
That said, sometimes man’s reach exceeds his grasp, and I think that might be the case with this third installment in the series. Obviously I shouldn’t judge The Purge: Election Year based solely on the trailer, but I also shouldn’t be sipping Crown Royal neat at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and you shouldn’t be judging me for that, and I shouldn’t be judging you by assuming you’re judgmental, but all of those things are happening, so let’s press forward.
Based on the trailer above, I feel like The Purge: Election Year is trying to have an entire dessert buffet table worth of cakes and eat them too, and this might be a little more than it can handle. The Purge propaganda commercial that kicks things off is a little heavy-handed, and also comical. It looks like a FarmersOnly.com commercial. Most of those people look like you could just slap them in the face and make them hand over their weapons if they tried to Purge you. Also, it accidentally drives home just how preposterous the idea of a Purge really is. When it was a bit more vague and shadowy it felt like something you could temporarily believe in for the sake of the story. Showing the cheerful, smiling faces of voters / Purgers in a deliberately lame commercial makes it harder to take the concept seriously, even if only for the runtime of the film. You’re telling me that friendly little Alice from Human Resources–the lady who calls her puppies her kids, and takes charge of passing around a birthday card so everyone in the office can sign it very secretly, even though Steve knows its his birthday, he knows we got him a card, we get everyone a card on their birthday, why are we being so hush-hush about this?–you’re telling me she’s Purging it up once a year? Just because she sees it as her civic duty?
It’s a little hard for me to buy that. I at least need some more background as to how it’s come to this.
The action in this trailer also comes across as a bit much. There was something still relatively down-to-earth about the situations the group of heroes faced in The Purge: Anarchy. This story looks like a hybrid of White House Down, Escape From New York, any number of Mad Max knockoffs, and the Saw sequels. Some of the imagery is startling and has potential to be haunting, but the random guillotine and swinging pendulum trap…can you just buy those at Purge ‘R’ Us? It’s all a bit much.
Then again, Anarchy surprised me by how good and reasonably smart it was so, as always, I reserve the right to pretend I never wrote any of this if Election Year comes out and is the greatest third installment in a horror series of all time.
The Purge: Election Year comes to theaters on the 4th of July.