James DeMonaco re­veals the wicked se­crets of bonkers three­quel The Purge: Elec­tion Year

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The third Purge goes po­lit­i­cal.

there was a mo­ment dur­ing shoot­ing for The Purge: Elec­tion Year – the third film in the hit postapoc­a­lyp­tic ac­tion series – that di­rec­tor James DeMonaco thought he’d fi­nally lost it. “We have a big fi­nale in­side a cathe­dral,” he tells Red Alert, chat­ting down the line from an LA edit suite. “We all turned to each other and said, ‘Okay, we’ve gone off the rails...’ It’s like an old Ham­mer film at one point, in the great­est way. It’s got this great kind of Gothic feel, but it has peo­ple pray­ing and killing; it’s blend­ing re­li­gion and mur­der. We’re try­ing to de­pict a world that’s truly gone ba­nanas. We get there in the fi­nale!”

Any­body fa­mil­iar with the fran­chise wouldn’t ex­pect any less from DeMonaco’s tril­ogy closer. While the first film (“a tiny lit­tle thing,” the di­rec­tor laughs of its $3m bud­get) was a Lena Headey/Ethan Hawke two-han­der set al­most en­tirely in a sub­ur­ban fam­ily home, 2014’s The Purge: Anar­chy tipped Frank Grillo into a night of car­nage on the streets of LA. The crazy-cool con­cept that linked them? In the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture, mur­der is le­gal for one night a year, mean­ing grudges big and small can be set­tled in deliri­ously bloody fash­ion.

Tak­ing the series to its in­evitable con­clu­sion, The Purge: Elec­tion Year will fi­nally un­veil ex­actly how high up the cor­rup­tion goes (and in a real-life elec­tion year, to boot, when a Trump-shaped apoca­lypse seems all but nigh). “It was al­ways like, ‘How do we pull the fo­cus back more and see more of the world; why we got here, how we got here, who are the puppet masters?’” DeMonaco says. “In part three, we meet the found­ing fa­thers who cre­ated the Purge. We find out why they cre­ated the Purge, broad­en­ing that hori­zon.”


Re­lo­cat­ing the ac­tion to Wash­ing­ton DC al­lows us “to see right into the heart of this crazy night”, the di­rec­tor says, with Purge sur­vivor Sergeant (Frank Grillo) again tak­ing the lead. His quest to kill the man who mur­dered his son ended in Anar­chy and now Sergeant has ditched his com­bat gear for a suit and tie. “The last movie af­fected him greatly,” Grillo tells us, while DeMonaco adds: “It’s al­most a redemption story. Sergeant al­most did this heinous thing that he now sees could’ve ru­ined his life. He sees the Purge as this grotesque thing that needs to be abol­ished.”

Which is why Sergeant is now head­ing up the se­cu­rity team of one Se­na­tor Char­lene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who’ll abol­ish the Purge if she’s elected. Of course, the Pow­ers That Be are de­ter­mined not to let that hap­pen, but Sergeant is no wall­flower – and nei­ther is the guy play­ing him. “Frank’s got­ten into a lot of scraps in life,” says DeMonaco, who re­lied on his lead­ing man to bring it dur­ing a gru­elling 35-night shoot. “He’s an MMA fighter; he’s some­one you don’t re­ally want to mess with in real life. He broke two of my stunt co­or­di­na­tor’s ribs! We lit­er­ally heard them crack. Frank is re­ally tough and I that’s why I love work­ing with him, be­cause it’s not pre­tend.”

It’s not all about break­ing bones, though. Over the course of Elec­tion Year, Sergeant even­tu­ally joins forces with a shop worker played by Mykelti Wil­liamson, whom both DeMonaco and Grillo say steals the movie. “We have to come to­gether for a com­mon cause,” Grillo says. “And even­tu­ally it be­comes a lit­tle bit of a buddy movie with him and I. It’s cool. He’s just fan­tas­tic in it.” Adds DeMonaco: “The Purge films are very grim, but this one brings an el­e­ment of hu­man­ity and hu­mour that the other films didn’t have.”

Which gifts the three­quel some­thing the first two films al­most en­tirely lacked. “I think there’s hope now,” DeMonaco says. “This woman wants to stop this grotesque hol­i­day, and you’ve got a sense of com­mu­nity in these peo­ple who work at this deli; I think within that com­mu­nity you get nat­u­ral laughs com­ing. The film’s so in­sane at points, the ac­tion is so in­sane, that hav­ing these mo­ments of laugh­ter is a re­lief in be­tween the chaos un­fold­ing.”

That very chaos, though, is guar­an­teed to take the fran­chise out with a bang. “We re­ally wanted to up the ante,” re­veals DeMonaco. “The idea is that this vi­o­lence is a virus that in­fects Amer­ica and we said, ‘Let’s just go all in and make this a very sur­real land­scape.’ So the vi­o­lence has a sur­real, strange feel.” Not that it’s all about blood­shed. “I grew up with sci-fi and watch­ing movies like Lo­gan’s Run and Soy­lent Green, and they were metaphors for some­thing else,” muses the di­rec­tor. “This is a metaphor for Amer­ica’s re­la­tion­ship with guns and vi­o­lence, but peo­ple re­ally take it as some­thing very real and plau­si­ble. Which is cool!”

The Purge: Elec­tion Year opens on 15 July.

Frank broke two of my stunt co‑or­di­na­tor’s ribs! We lit­er­ally heard them crack

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