The Purge: Anarchy finds us back in the near-future where the US government has sanctioned annual ‘purges’: 24 hours where all crime (including murder) is legal and no emergency services are available. And this time around, director James DeMonaco takes us out on to the streets, deep into the heart of the violence.
The first Purge film set up the fantastic concept of a legally sanctioned murder-spree… and then turned into a clichéd ‘run around a dark, spooky house with jump scares’ horror film. A great idea reduced to a mediocre horror flick. However, its sequel delivers exactly what most of us want to see and the true heart of ‘the purge’ was revealed, in all its gory glory.
Whereas in the last film, we were limited by our viewpoint family, the amazingly dull Sandins, The Purge: Anarchy is told through the eyes of a number of different characters, from Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) who is determined to use the purge in order seek revenge for his son’s death to the poor, anti-Purge mother and daughter team Eva and Cali (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul). This brings a great dynamic to the entire film, giving more of a sense of more immersive, essentially flawed society, a society in which the Purge concept could actually exist.
We also get a real sense of the conflict between the rich and the poor, those who support the purge and those who don’t. Unlike the first film, ‘the purge’ has become a lot more clinical, a form of societal cleansing rather than extreme stress relief. There are fewer random killings, instead the poor and weak are targeted and eradicated. In response, society is beginning to fight back, in the form of pirate broadcasts led by Dwayne (Edwin Hodge- the pursued stranger from the original), calling for a change in the system.
Like many modern-day horrors, Anarchy isn’t particularly clever in terms of how it gets its scares. Jump-scares become almost over-used which, though effective does become very predictable, even more so than the first. But the sense of story and character development is a refreshing change from the original, with each of the leads demonstrating some form of character development, even the sulky teenager.
I quite liked the fact that this film had few links to the first. It meant ‘the purge’ could be re-explored in a much more in-depth way than the original. In most senses, this film is a great step forwards, clearly learning from the largely negative critique the first received.
Though not the most original horror film in cinemas recently, Anarchy utilises its concept brilliantly. The characters are engaging and the performances are, in most cases, strong. Personally, I hope this is where the franchise ends because I fear that a return could see the concept tarnished, though rumours of a prequel suggest we may well see The Purge 3 soon.