"The Purge has to come to an end." So says Senator Charlene "Charlie" Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) in the official trailer for the upcoming third installment in James DeMonaco's dystopian horror series The Purge. This isn't our first foray into the nightmarish evening of the Purge, which hangs over the month of March in DeMonaco's universe, but it could be the most successful yet; not least of all because it's attempting to reflect current political tensions in the US (and beyond).
In many ways, the overarching themes of the franchise strike on the head of modern politics and specific takes on the sociopolitical climate; as Senator Roan says: "The Purge targets the poor and the innocent." In this universe, the rich white men hide safely in their glass towers while the poor and disenfranchised tear each other to shreds on the streets below, not realizing that the real enemies are those pulling the strings from above.
Of course, this is explicitly touched upon during The Purge: Anarchy, with the anti-Purge resistance group revealing that the night is used not as a means of catharsis for the general public, but rather, as a method of population control, the poor and the weak being the ones largely targeted in the violence.
Amusingly enough, this concept was parodied to great comedic effect in animated show Rick And Morty's Season 2, Episode 9, "Look Who's Purging Now," which cumulates in titular character Rick and potential Purge victim Arthricia violently slaughtering their oppressors and freeing the common folk. The society then descends into permanent anarchy as the people cannot get along politically without a governing body. And the cycle repeats.
It's the flipside of Marxist critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer's comments on culture, with The Purge world arguing that media creates violence rather than passivity. It's both a political leftie's wet dream of social commentary, and representation of their worst nightmare; a world in which the poor are literally pitted against each other in order to distract them from those inhabiting the ivory towers — revolution not shut down, but redirected.
In The Purge: Election Year, we follow two people trying to stop the annual violence. Presidential candidate, Senator Charlie Roan, is the politician fighting to take down the Purge, having lost her own family to the violence 15 years previous. Protecting her is her head of security and The Purge: Anarchy character Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), a man who also carries emotional wounds and wants the night to end. Edwin Hodge returns as the Stranger, the only character to be seen in all three films.
The recent TV spot (below) plays upon America's current political discourse, heavily parodying the running slogan of controversial Republican candidate Donald Trump — "Make America Great Again." And the fact that the movie's release date is set for the July 4 weekend is no coincidence.
Other American iconography is touched upon throughout the full-length trailer, from a twisted take on New York's Statue Of Liberty to a bloodied Abe Lincoln mask.
But all ultraviolence permeating social commentary aside, will it be any good? Despite some hype around the release of the first movie in the series, 2013's The Purge was met with critical grumblings and failed to make any kind of significant impact anywhere but the box office (pulling $89.3 million on a $3 million budget? Far from shabby). The followup, The Purge: Anarchy fared moderately better with the critics, but still failed to garner widespread acclaim (another box office success, though, bringing in nearly $112 million on a $9 million budget).
And what of The Purge: Election Year? The Purge was somewhat of a critique of the faux-pleasantness of suburban life and the upper-middle-class family; The Purge: Anarchy moved the action to the streets of Los Angeles and introduced the people fighting against the system, a take which worked much better within the dystopia of the presented world.
Election Year will attempt to marry the spheres of politics and violence as Senator Roan fights to shut the Purge down, because it wouldn't be a Purge movie if it were all politics and board meetings.
But can the movie move past hyperbole and straw-men arguments to make a point, or will it be all violence with little substance? If not, well it might truly be time for The Purge to come to an end.