‘The Purge: Election Year’ Review


Director: James DeMonaco

Writer: James DeMonaco

Cast: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Josepeh Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel, Terry Serpico, Edwin Hodge, Kyle Secor, Brittany Mirabile, and Raymond J. Barry

Synopsis: Years after sparing the man who killed his son, former police sergeant Barnes has become head of security for Senator Charlie Roan, a Presidential candidate targeted for death on Purge night due to her vow to eliminate the Purge.


*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*


The Purge films have evolved since the beginning. The first film was set within a home, with Anarchy opening up to the streets, and for the better. Now, with Election Year the action is back on the streets, but this time with political overtones, and arguably fit into today’s political field. But, Election Year doesn’t forget what it is, and goes back to the streets in a gritty and violent fashion.

The Purge: Election Year takes place two years after the events in Anarchy, and brings back hero Leo Barnes (Grillo), now as the head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Mitchell), who is running for President, and a Purge survivor, on the platform to eliminate the Purge. Of course, this makes her a target for the New Founding Fathers of America – or the NFFA – that want to use the Purge to kill her. Meanwhile, a grocery store owner Joe Dixon (Williamson), his co-worker Marcos (Soria), and friend Laney Rucker (Gabriel), who runs a triage van that helps people during the Purge, get sucked into the mix after purgers go after Joe’s store, and revolutionary Dante Bishop, from the past two films, is leading a charge to put an end to the Purge as well.


I have to hand it to director and writer James DeMonaco, who constantly changes the world with every film. Anarchy opened the world up and was a great addition to the series. Election Year keeps the action out on the streets, but puts more of the story into the political side of things. That might drive some people away, and it is heavy-handed at times, but DeMonaco does a descent job of not letting the two stances – the Purge being bad and, well, keeping the film true to itself – in check. It does make the film battle itself, but overall Election Year is a good addition to the series.

When it comes to the characters, Frank Grillo’s character doesn’t have the same great arc like Anarchy, but he’s still an unstoppable killing machine when need be to protect Roan. Elizabeth Mitchell’s Senator Roan is the idealistic one that wants to change the world for the better, even after finding out the NFFA wants her dead. Mykelti Williamson and Joseph Julian Soria are arguably the best part of the film. Their chemistry is great together and once they get into the fold with Leo and Roan, it adds a great deal of levity and fun. Betty Gabriel’s Laney has a history that is mentioned in passing, but nothing really happens with the exception of one quick scene.


Edwin Hodge returns to the series, this time with an actual name in Dante Bishop. For those that don’t remember, Hodge was the Stranger that was in the first film, and had a brief role in the second film at the end. Now, he’s here essentially taking over the Michael Kenneth Williams’ role from Anarchy as the revolutionary trying to stop the Purge, but in a more grand fashion. Terry Serpico plays the leader of a militia group set to kill the Senator. Another interesting cast tidbit, is this is the first time we see the New Founding Father’s of America. They’ve been mentioned in the past, but this is the first time we actually see them, and they are about what you suspect.

The cinematography is great once again, and the Purge events in the film are horrifying as ever with the crazy character costumes and production design. I won’t say that Election Year is better than Anarchy, but with this film going back to more of its horror genre roots, Election Year does set itself apart.


All in all, The Purge: Election Year is another great addition to the Purge films. While its political tones get a bit heavy handed at times, and get a bit mudded with the overall tone of the film, Election Year is still a hell of a lot of fun.


The Purge: Election Year

4 out of 5


“As Above, So Below” Review


Dir: John Erick Dowdle

Cast: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, Francois Civil, Marion Lambert, and Ali Marhyar

Synopsis: When a team of explorers ventures into the catacombs that lie beneath the streets of Paris, they uncover the dark secret that lies within this city of the dead




*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*



As Above, So Below is being advertised as another found footage horror movie, but as I sat there and watched it, it didn’t feel like a typical found footage movie, or even a horror movie. The movie feels more like a thriller and has bits of horror with the found footage aspect. Unfortunately for us, the movie fails at some levels but does have some redeeming qualities to it.


The movie follows Scarlett Marlowe (Weeks), who has made it her career to finish her late-father’s work; find legendary alchemist Nicholas Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone. The stone is suppose to, according to Scarlett, “turn basic metals into gold and grant eternal life.” She gathers the help of a documentarian colleague Benji (Hodge), fellow archaeologist and former boyfriend George (Feldman) and some local thrill seekers Paillon (Civil), Souxie (Lambert) and Zed (Marhyar).


Scarlett, with the help of George, eventually find out that the stone might be held in some closed off portion of The Catacombs in Paris. The group heads down and of course, weird things start to happen. Of course being stuck in an isolated area like the Catacombs things like claustrophobia, confusion, darkness, creepy noise, scrapes and bruises occur that make the group uneasy continuing their adventure. They also need to confront their inner fears if they want to make out alive.


The movie, which surprised me, apparently got to film some of movie in the actual Catacombs, besides the big set pieces obviously, which is kind of cool. But the other big thing that sets this aside is the movie has the actors “film” it. The characters have mini-cameras attached to their headband lights so some of the movie is seen from their point-of-view, which adds to their suspense factor. This also makes the “why are they still filming all of this” argument become less of a problem since they need to light down in the Catacombs.


As Above, So Below already has the creepy factor in its set. The Catacombs is essentially a mass grave and could have been used in the movie more, but instead it is used more as a backdrop than its main attraction. The Philosopher’s Stone – which has been used in other movies like Harry Potter and Tomb Raider – is more of a MacGuffin and isn’t really that interesting as a plot device.


The movie though does have great sound design. Besides the obvious camera movements that make you know something is coming to pop at you, the sound design is the reason this movie is a bit unnerving and creepy. It’s the small creeks, crumbles, and random noises that raise your awareness and makes you nervous for the characters.


Thankfully, the movie has a descent lead in Weeks. She plays Scarlett as a bit obsessive about finding the stone, not just for herself, but also to clear her father’s reputation. She not as annoying as some of the leads in found footage movies, which for this is kind of movie is welcomed and she is somewhat likeable, when she’s doing things that are clearly wrong or life threatening.


Feldman as George is also descent, along with Hodge as the cameraman Benji. The rest of the cast is really just filler and at one point I forgot about a character and when he’s shown on screen I was surprised to see he was still alive.


But with all that said As Above, So Below does have a lot wrong with it too. I address the shaky-cam because there are moments when the camera does crazy, especially in the last ten minutes when everything goes to hell (no pun intended). It also falls into to some usual horror movie tropes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it loses some of its effectiveness when you know it is coming.


There are also some things that are bought up that really go nowhere, and are just added in to add to the creepiness, which is kind of disappointing. The last fifteen to ten minutes is where everything gets chaotic and the movie seems to start fall into the unwelcomed. There are some creepy moments there but it then starts to follow the usual found footage beats, but with outcome that I didn’t see coming.


All in all, As Above, So Below has some creepy aspects and while it is a bit different from over found footage movies, it doesn’t bring anything new. It also at the end of the day doesn’t make a huge amount of sense but it is a supernatural horror movie and has a descent lead in Weeks, that it could make a serviceable weekday movie if you nothing better to do.



As Above, So Below

3 out of 5