Election results are in! Get ready once again for this year’s annual purge. From Universal Pictures and Blumhouse, The Purge: Election Year is a cinematic rollercoaster of espionage, action, revenge, campaigns, and of course the trade mark unbridled violence. Horror is one of my favorite genres to discuss because this genre often includes fantastic themes and subtext that act as social commentary on gender, politics, religion, economics, sex, or technology. Going into this movie, I was already prepared for the political themes, but there are many more themes for one to discuss with this film. In many ways, I am not even sure how to proceed with analyzing it. Cinematically, or from a technical perspective, the movie is fantastic. Yeah, a little campy at times but that is par for the course. Contains just the right amount of comedy, albeit dark, to balance out the darker or heavier elements. The fact that this movie is truly prompting me to think about its content is fascinating. Often times, I have a good idea of how I am going review a movie while I am driving home from the theatre; but this one is definitely requiring me to think about it more than I typically need to. I suppose that entire articles could be written on any one theme in the movie, but I only have 1000-1500 words to analyze it. Haha. The biggest question is whether or not this movie is actually counterproductive.
Two ideas of how life should be in the United States are at war, or at least that’s how it plays out on the debate stage. Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor) and Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) are going head to head over the purpose and necessity of the annual purge as started and supported by the reigning New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) regime. Just two days before the annual event, the NFFA makes the decision not to exempt anyone, not even government officials ranking 10 or higher, from this year’s purging. After an inside job threatens the life of Senator Roan in her own home, she and her trusted chief of security bodyguard Frank Grillo (Leo Barnes) must seek safety. With only Senator Roan standing in the way of the NFFA winning another election, the NFFA and hires assassins will stop at nothing until she is defeated. After a chance meeting with supporters of Roan, Frank and Senator Roan team up with the small band of rebels to survive the night at an attempt to end the chaos and win the election.
Although the first movie did not exactly have much in the way of social commentary themes beyond greed, Purge: Anarchy and this present installment are certainly drenched with rich themes that could fuel discussions for hours. One could surmise that the principle theme of the second installment in this thriller franchise was rich v poor. A very apropos theme considering the US economy was only-then emerging and beginning to grow from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Walking into this movie, I was prepared for political themes; but politics was only a principle element in the plot by extension and used as a highway to get from beginning to end. Not even in subtext, but the predominant theme of Purge: Election Year is clearly white v black. I find this concept and theme is dangerously and carelessly carried out because it really serves to perpetuate the idea that there is a difference between whites and blacks in the Unites States. Instead of the movie showing audiences what could, albeit unlikely, happen in a future America if not challenged or changed, it serves to add fuel to the fire that there is a difference. Furthermore, I find that the movie is unfair to both whites and blacks. It’s unfair to whites because it shows most of them having a hatred from blacks and nearly unanimously in favor of the purge while it depicts the predominant demographic of violent offenders as blacks. Now, I am sure the intention of the movie is not to be counterproductive or perpetuating a negative idea, after all it is produced to be entertaining; however, it’s difficult to watch the movie without wondering if it really is counterproductive in message and theme.
Beyond the social commentary on white v black, the movie also spent a lot of time on the perversion of organized religion. Although the religious aspect to the NFFA was included in the previous installment on a minor level, Purge: Election Year spends a great deal of time connecting a perverted organized version of warped Christianity (very much Catholic or Anglican in structure) to the driving forces behind the NFFA’s passion for and dedication to the annual purge. Just like I feel that the producers and writers of this movie crossed the line with the white v black violence, I feel that this version of organized religion only serves to perpetuate the idea that those in organized relation (mostly Christianity) are hate mongers. Obviously, most people know that this isn’t the case; however, that idea is certainly out there because of differing views on some socio-political areas of community and life in general. Perhaps the movie is commenting on how different groups of people may perceive one another. If that is the case, then the groups of people depicted in the movie can gain a better understanding of how an opposing side views them. Sometimes seeing your actions through another’s eyes helps to ignite positive change. I think that is a beauty in a film like this. It can be read in so many different ways and dissected to support one theme or another.
Quite the antithesis of the U.S. holiday most will be celebrating in one way or another this weekend, The Purge: Election Year paints a picture of a fractured country. In light of the recent massacre at Pulse in Orlando and other massively violent acts around the world, I am not entirely sure how well this movie will do over the weekend. Certainly around here, it may not be well-attended since I live in the Central Florida area and have been there many times myself. Universal Studios Florida is even revisiting the inclusion of The Purge as a house at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights. If for no other reason, this movie stirs may emotions whether they are motivated by race religion, or socio-economics. Like with most horror movies, I suggest watching this one with a friend or two. That way you can have fun discussing it afterwards.