Tag Archive: James DeMonaco


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

Advertisements

Last year, The Purge excited me with its intriguing premise: What if all crime was legal for one night? It’s a shame that this interesting idea was letdown by the film’s lame execution, but that’s what made a sequel seem so promising. Instead of conforming to an average home invasion thriller like its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy actually takes its characters outside the home and onto the street to show what really happens on Purge night. It’s exactly what detractors of the original film wanted to see and writer/director James DeMonaco deserves some praise for actually listening to his critics and taking this sequel into more interesting territory. Unfortunately, that’s probably the only praise that he’ll be receiving because The Purge: Anarchy is a downright unpleasant experience. It’s visually bland, the characters are unlikable and it lacks any of the excitement that would have been necessary to make this an entertaining B-movie.

The year is 2023 and America is in great shape. Unemployment is down, the economy is up and it’s all thanks to the annual Purge, when one night a year all crime is considered legal. Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) are a young couple who get stranded outside on Purge night when their car breaks down in the middle of a city. Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul) also get stuck outside when their apartment is raided by a team of armed men. None of these four are prepared for the acts of violence that await them on the streets, but they receive protection from Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), a police sergeant whose only goal for the night is to exact revenge on one man who wronged him in the past.

With such a politically influenced premise, these films should be ripe with ideas, themes and commentaries regarding our country and government, but Demonaco seems more focused on thrills than ideas. There are themes present in the film, but they only scratch the surface of what should be a very thought provoking subject. There’s a scene where a character shoots off a gun and then proclaims that it’s her right as an American to do so. This is clearly meant to be a statement on gun control, but after this scene the subject never comes up again. It’s almost as if Demonaco thinks that simply mentioning these ideas without properly exploring them will be adequate enough. This poor handling of the thematic content could have been forgivable if the film had been an entertaining ride, but there’s hardly a single memorable moment throughout the film’s 103 minute runtime. Scenes are dimly lit and the hectic camerawork is edited together so sloppily that I often had to strain myself just to discern what I was supposed to be seeing.

The characters that the original Purge centered around may not have been very interesting, but at least they were sympathetic enough for the audience to root for their survival. This time around, the characters are beyond irritating and I wasn’t able to sympathize with any of them. Shane and Liz are a couple who seem to whine about something in nearly every scene and the arc that their relationship takes is obvious from their first few scenes. Eva and Cali aren’t quite as irksome, but they’re so uninteresting that I couldn’t even care about them when their lives are being threatened. Sergeant Barnes is the most interesting character of the bunch, but that’s not saying much; he’s got no personality and the only thing that fuels his character is the desire to hurt the man that hurt him.

There’s potential for a great film hidden somewhere inside The Purge: Anarchy, but Demonaco just can’t seem to bring it into fruition. It takes more than a great premise to complete a movie and this film and its predecessor are clear proof of that. If a third film is put into production, I’ll remain cautiously optimistic, but perhaps a new director will be necessary to finally make the film that this series has been waiting for. If crime is somehow made legal for one night in 2023, I can guarantee you that I won’t be stealing any copies of The Purge: Anarchy.

The Purge: Anarchy receives 1.5/4