THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR
James DeMonaco reveals the wicked secrets of bonkers threequel The Purge: Election Year
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
We can’t help thinking he’d bite.
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