‘The Purge: Election Year’ (aka “How I saved a presidential candidate from being purged”) is the second follow-up to the surprising 2013 box office hit ‘The Purge,’ which earned nearly $90 million on a budget of $3 million. The second film, ‘Purge: Anarchy,’ didn’t do too shabbily either, raking in well over $100 million on an $11 million investment. Which means the producers at Blumhouse and Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay's production company) risk being purged themselves if they didn’t keep spinning off this proven moneymaker. Although we’re seeing some diminishing returns, ‘The Purge: Election Year’ (with a budget of just $10 million) has made over $60 million thus far over two weekends, which suggests that we may have the next ‘Saw’ franchise on our hands. Thankfully, ‘The Purge’ may well end on this note while it’s still on top.
For those of you unfamiliar with the outrageous premise, ‘The Purge’ postulates a dystopian contemporary America in which one day a year, from dusk til dawn on March 21-22, people can commit murder and other crimes with impunity to their heart’s content. A good purging “cleanses” society and relieves pressures that create economic hardship on our nation, so the belief goes. But come on, nobody really cares about that. People purge because they want to let their inner demons out in an orgy of wanton catharsis. In ‘The Purge: Election Year,’ there are even foreigners who come to America in pursuit of this happiness.
‘Election Year’ takes full advantage of its timeliness and in some ways reflects the deep political, socio-economic and, yes, racial divisions, disillusionment, and rifts in America today. It’s not particularly deep, nor does it pretend to be since it’s essentially an exploitation B-movie relying on not-so-subtle subtexts, but there is that certain undefined quality that speaks to us on a purely instinctual gut level. Maybe it’s the visceral thrill of seeing poetic justice being done and the bad guys getting their just desserts, or the rebellious Anti-Establishment streak in these films, but somehow it works because on the surface these films really have no business making such a shitload of money.