The Purge is a perfect horror franchise (don't @ me). And you know what? The Purge: Election Year is possibly the most lit Purge of them all. It arrives in our own election year (topical!), and it's not hard to imagine that Donald Trump would be down with an annual purge—one night a year during which all crime is legal. Asking me to rank the Purge movies is like asking me to rank all three of my deeply flawed children, but... *covers Purge 2's ears* The Purge 3 is totally the star child of the family. Look, some days, the first Purge is my favorite (though it feels like a totally different movie from the latter two). But The Purge 3 goes BIG and BOLD. And it's kind of like my newborn child, so excuse me while I rave about it. Seriously, though, if The Purge: Anarchy is a dumb fun movie, then The Purge: Election Year hits the upgrade button on that trash fire of a film in literally every way. Let me explain.
Murder becomes performance art. Murder finds a purpose. If I'm being completely honest, people were not creative enough with their murders in the last Purge. There were too many motherfuckers just, like, out on the street to get the job done. The Purge 3 finally realized that people should be having fun with it. Because guess what? Even murder can be art. The Purge 3 has people killing someone with a goddamn guillotine! Swinging blades are used as booby traps. There are MURDER TOURISTS — foreigners who visit America for the sole purpose of purging — and they do it in elaborate costumes. There are chanting weirdos and bros having their own version of Fight Club (with swords!). And finally—fucking finally—the latest Purge acknowledges that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Not only do wives shoot their husbands out of spite, but in one scene, a woman literally sits on a bench and watches a man's body burn, and we all know that man deserved it. In the world of The Purge, murder has been completely normalized, so it only makes sense that after a few years of regular old murder, people would get bored—and then get really creative.
Teen girls are way scarier and smarter than teen boys. Props to The Purge films for realizing that teens are the scariest demographic. Both The Purge 2 and The Purge 3 use teens as a way to basically fuck shit up (they're never the big baddie, but bad enough to make you shit your pants for a sec), but in Anarchy, it was a bunch of fuccbois on skateboards and masks that say "GOD" on them. Really, bro? You're gonna SKATEBOARD around town on a night when opening fire is totally legal and even encouraged? *HITS UPGRADE BUTTON* Enter The Purge: Election Year and its gang of teen girls. Teen girls are WAY scarier and WAY smarter than teen boys. These bitches roll up in their glitzy Priuses wearing prom dresses and "KISS ME" masks (capitalizing on their ability to be simultaneously cute AND terrifying) and cause major fuckshit while listening to Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." I'm never going to trust a teen ever again.
There are way more POC heroes. There are lots of race politics involved in The Purge because here's the thing: All the rich white people keep trying to purge poor black people who don't have state-of-the-art security installed in their homes. It's fucked up. So much of The Purge 2 was about this White Savior (Frank Grillo) helping the helpless, but The Purge 3 makes heroes out of its POC characters. Grillo and Senator Charlie Roan literally would be dead meat if it weren't for Joe, a black icon (and low-key the best part of the movie) who says stuff like, "You should know better than to sneak up on black people during the Purge"; his friend Laney, a bad bitch who drives around a DIY ambulance; and Marcos, a Latino man who, when not helping Joe run the deli, helps them survive the night.
White people are either super good or super bad; there are no annoying in-betweens. White people exist on extreme spectrums in the third Purge. It's either your standard Hero type or bleached blonde dudes with WHITE POWER signs (def bad). You know what's scarier than white people auctioning off literal humans (like in the second Purge)? White people in a cult-ish church literally praising hallelujah to murder while an alarmingly pale minister sacrifices people. Look, I loved the whole "brooding, mysterious, morally questionable white man saves a bunch of randos" storyline of The Purge: Anarchy, but there was that one super-annoying, super-white couple in the squad who kept freaking out about, like, getting blood on their Patagonia vests (not really but basically). They got WAY too much screen time, in my opinion, and even though they were "the good guys," you low-key rooted for them to die.
This Purge cuts all that bullcrap and finally gives you some white people you can unabashedly root for (at one point, a black man says something along the lines of, "these are good white people," because guess what, even HE knew). That brooding, mysterious, morally questionable man (Grillo) is back for The Purge 3, except this time he's brooding, mysterious, and morally upright, playing secret service to Senator Roan, whose main political agenda is to end the Purge. (She's like the Hillary of the Purge universe.) You know what? I wanted these people alive the WHOLE TIME! She has a good political policy! I love Frank Grillo! He's super sexy! My only problem with this whole sitch is that, while, yes, purging is bad, ending the Purge might also mean ending the Purge movies??? I don't want that. In a perfect world, there is a Purge movie every year. There's so much purging to be done that they eventually have to take it to space.
The camera work is exquisite. For all its horror and violence and general nonsense, The Purge is quite a beautiful movie. All three Purge movies share a cinematographer (Jacques Jouffret). His only cinematography credits are just those three Purge movies, so as far as I'm concerned, this Jacques Jouffret fellow has a perfect streak. This last Purge is unquestionably his best work yet. When the camera pans across the Lincoln Memorial with the letters P-U-R-G-E written on each column in blood? Muah *kisses fingers*. That scene where the teen girls are ecstatically dancing with guns? Oh man — EYE CANDY. This movie is both literally and figuratively lit. Would see again.