The idea of a 12-hour Purge where all crime is considered legal is admittedly a ridiculous premise. It’s difficult to imagine any country getting to that level of desperation, let alone the United States. But you know what else has been completely ridiculous? This election cycle. Regardless of your political views, there’s no denying that this has been one of the most over-the-top and entertaining presidential elections in history. So it seems like perfect timing to have these two ideas meet in The Purge: Election Year, the third film in the popular horror franchise. It has potential to really highlight some broad issues with society today, but writer/director James DeMonaco seems to have mistaken subtlety for obvious, in-your-face messages. Not only is this film not half as smart as it wants to be, it also fails to deliver a quality horror movie as well.

Two years after the events of The Purge: Anarchy, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) is now the head of security for presidential hopeful Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a senator who vows to outlaw the Purge if elected. Her main opponent is Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor), a representative of the New Founding Fathers, the political party responsible for starting the Purge in the first place. This makes her a clear target and while Barnes ensures that Roan’s home is protected on the night of the Purge, a betrayal from within their group proves that she’s no longer safe. After an assault on her home, she and Barnes venture out into the streets and attempt to survive the one night a year where all crime – including murder – is legal.

I’ve always been a big fan of the premise of these films, but despite a great idea, DeMonaco has yet to deliver the goods. Their attempt at social commentary is incredibly surface level and this film’s focus on politics only creates more inherent problems with the premise. I’m willing to go with this ridiculous idea, but once they start focusing on the politics of it all, it becomes increasingly harder to accept as a reality. But even with these problems, they still can’t even deliver a decent horror film. DeMonaco is simply not a good director, failing to offer up any legitimate scares or compelling action sequences. Many of the films villains are so ridiculously over-the-top that they become comical and any of the film’s attempts at intended humor are cringeworthy at the best and borderline intolerant at the worst. Frank Grillo and Elizabeth Mitchell make for a compelling pair, but that doesn’t stop The Purge: Election Year from being another disappointment in the franchise. These films are nothing more than a great idea in search of a great movie.

The Purge: Election Year receives 1.5/4

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