The Purge: Anarchy

Directed By: James DeMonaco

Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, and Zoe Soul

In an era when the latest and greatest scary movies are almost always about something supernatural, it's nice to see some good old fashioned horror movies where people kill people.  I'm tired of ghosts, demons, and possessed mirrors dominating the horror landscape.  I prefer movies that tap into the darkness inside each and every one of us and leverage this to ratchet up the fear factor. That's exactly what The Purge movies are all about.  Just think about the nutty gun advocates who are walking neighborhoods armed to convey the message that they will cling to their weaponry.  That's the savage element into which The Purge movies tap.  It's also exactly why I may have somewhat of a soft spot for this weekend's The Purge: Anarchy

It's 2023, and it's about that time of the year for the 6th Annual Purge.  Donald Talbot of the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), effectively the U.S. government, lauds the commencement of this blessed tradition and encourages everyone to participate and cleanse their souls.  Meanwhile, an activist named Carmelo Johns (Michael K. Williams) staunchly disagrees with the NFFA and is calling on the little guys all around the country to stand up against this annual injustice.  On this night, Sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) agrees with the NFFA as he's got a score to settle with someone who's wronged his family in the past without penalty.  Barnes gears up and gets into an armored vehicle to drive into downtown New York, one of the most dangerous places to be on this bloody night.

Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) are staying in tonight with Eva's sick, elderly father.  He has other plans, and the girls have no idea that their apartment complex will be raided by armed, masked men once the Purge commences.  Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) are out at the last minute doing some shopping at the grocery store.  While heading home, their car breaks down and they get stuck in the middle of downtown New York.  As the Purge commences, they find themselves on the run from several young menaces, one of whom is wearing a mask with the inscription "God" on top of it.  As Eva, Cali, Shane, and Liz are all at their most desperate, Sergeant Barnes happens to be driving through their part of the city.  Putting his own sinister plans on hold, he decides to break an unwritten purge rule: "Don't save lives."

Given that The Purge just came out a little more than a year ago, there was no need to rush toward making a sequel.  Consequently, The Purge: Anarchy is an ambitious horror movie that never materializes into what it could be.  Thematically, director James DeMonaco bites off more than he can chew.  He's tackling income inequality and the class warfare that ensues in the most literal sense.  He's tackling the government's abuse of power and how the New Founding Fathers of America represent all that's wrong with our broken government today.  All the while, he's tackling a revenge storyline and showcasing the nutcases that prove that America has gone to hell.  This is a lot for one movie, especially an undercooked horror flick like The Purge: Anarchy with a cast and crew lacking the creative vision or the chops to deliver this powerful message in an effective, nuanced manner.

Beyond tackling too much thematically, this horror film lacks frights.  Deaths are what make a film like The Purge: Anarchy scary.  More specifically, the deaths of some protagonists amplify the looming threat of other protagonists dying and raise the fear factor later in the film.  Like its predecessor, this sequel only boasts one impactful death, and it's rather late in the film.  Because it's so late, this death does nothing to build terror.  Moreover, despite being in what could perhaps be the most terrifying setting for a tradition like the Purge, DeMonaco somehow fails to deliver the thrills with which the streets of New York should be filled.  This is a major drawback for the movie.

The Purge: Anarchy is a film with a lot of potential.  It could have righted some of the wrongs of its predecessor and served up some high-brow horror.  It could have been the top horror movie of this bland year.  Instead, it's another mediocre film that misses the mark.  The Purge: Anarchy gets a 0.09% rating.  Have a few Long Island Ice Teas with this one.