In the third installment of the dystopian horror series The Purge the producers have finally captured the essence of American dysfunction. In the trailer for The Purge: Election Year a candidate can be seen at a podium bragging that he could stand in the middle of the street, kill someone and not lose supporters. This same candidate later calls one of his opponents a “pussy” as he flips his toupee. Meanwhile another local government has poisoned its city’s water supply and outlawed oral and anal sex. It’s absolutely bananas and…wait. That stuff actually happened, that’s not in the trailer.
Which is what makes this series and the trailer feel like overkill. This time around there is a young senator named Charlene ‘Charlie’ Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell ) who seeks the presidency running on the platform that the purge unfairly targets the poor and should be stopped. Unfortunately, the New Founding Fathers benefit from the annual culling and make plans to permanently end her campaign. She is aided by previous purge survivor Sergeant Barnes (Frank Grillo) who realizes that the government has broken their own law (“government officials of ranking 10 and higher have been granted immunity from the Purge and shall not be harmed”) and targets Roan. They are forced into the streets of D.C. without protection like a Howard student out of financial aid. With the Purge in full swing they are set upon by all manner of ghoulish Americana drunk with bloodlust. It’s “The Walking Dead” without the zombies.
In the past few years I have muttered the words “the purge is real” after reading headlines from news outlets about police brutality and other forms of government sanctioned violence against American citizens. While I can admit it was mostly hyperbolic venting, as we creep closer to our actual election day and the violence that has occurred at political rallies, I’m finding it harder to suspend belief. My inner doomsday prepper is calculating how long my family can survive on the crops my wife grows in the backyard. For the first time in my life I have considered getting a gun license and learning to use one. The Purge no longer feels like an unlikely Terminator-esque scenario that will need a Rube Goldberg-like series of unfortunate events to trigger it in the future. The New Founding Fathers seem just like the politicians itching to erase all evidence that America has been governed by a liberal African-American man for the last seven years. And while it is an Elastigirl level reach that the Purge’s protagonist has any relation to the female senator actually running for president, the grass has not been greener on the liberal side of the lawn. Thanks to social media this has been the ugliest and most divisive election cycle I have ever experienced. The Tea Partiers gunning for Obama in ’08 were a shuffleboard club compared to some of the Twitter drunk gang members masquerading as Democratic voters in 2016. (And let’s end the speculation, I’m talking to all of y’all.)
Many of my favorite films serve as escapist commentary based in reality. But there is nothing escapist about The Purge. No matter who wins when the credits roll, I will walk out of the theater into a country that is moving into a second act that is scarier than anything we can conjure up in our heads or on the screen. This one nation under many gods is very divisible right now. Liberty and justice sound more like names of sports teams than ideals we actually live by. And while I will definitely be voting this year, I will most likely stay home on purge night. I’ve got tomatoes to grow.