There are times when movies can capture the grotesque nature of politics and comment in a way that other forms of media can not. As a person who is into politics, and loves a good cautionary tale wrapped into a piece of art, I have gravitated towards the dystopian film series, The Purge. A series set in the near future, it depicts an America in which a neo-fascist, fanatical Christian set of rulers called the New Founding Fathers of America are voted into office after an economic collapse. As a way of dealing with scarce resources, they initiate the purge. Directed by James DeMonaco, the film series started back in 2013 with its scope limited to the impact on one family. The second film, The Purge: Anarchy, broadened it a great deal, looking at the effects on the most vulnerable in that near future dystopian society. The Purge: Election Year is a well-timed, commentary on the divisiveness and violence that permeates American life. This film is centered around a senator running for President to stop The Purge.
There are so many political elements to the series, that it bears mentioning. While the barbarism in this film is fictional, of course there are historical precedents for it. Allusions to Nazi Germany, are present. Students of history will also recollect The Great Purge of Stalinist Russia in the late 1930’s. Themes of human sacrifice, religious fervor, racism and population control all factor in strongly into this film.
There is no shortage of savagery in this film. Whether it was depiction of the use of the guillotine, using drones to track victims, or the usage of fully automatic machine guns, this flick had it. Even though I alluded to the historic parallels, The Purge: Election Year taps into the dark parts of the American culture. The notion that certain weaker parts of the population have to be culled to create a utopia is horrifyingly familiar, as it should be. It is like seeing a movie version of The Turner Diaries. With the presence of Neo-Nazi mercenaries and assorted hitmen bearing confederate flags on their shoulder patches, these shock troops could have been the children of Trump supporters. Whether its pointing at the distorted logic of social darwinism as a mode of thought, or the culture of gun violence, this film extrapolates many of those uniquely American elements. Given the numbers on gun deaths in America, is it really any more savage to propose that all of the murder happen at one time during the year?
Indeed, there are some really twisted things in this movie. But so are there in American life. With the Orlando massacre still a fresh memory, this film comes out the weekend of July 4th- during a hotly contested election with fear of the other a strong theme. It may be jarring to look at a poster with Uncle Sam with an assault rifle, but ignoring the reality of our country is not possible.
The only part that weakens this movie is the ending. A predictable moral turn, only ended up softening the message, in this writer’s opinion. But, have no fear, dear reader. Such a thing could never, ever, ever happen here in this civilized country… right?