the purge election year trailer

Last year’s The Purge: Election Year didn’t exactly close the door on the popular horror series, but it did conclude with things looking up for the nightmarish near-future America where all crime is legalized for one night each year. If it was the final film, it would have been a satisfying ending. But the Purge movies are cheap to make and they gross a lot of money, so a fourth film was inevitable. And the series is going back to where it all began.

So, how exactly does an evil government get away with actually kickstarting a special holiday where people are encouraged to go out and murder each other? The Purge: The Island will be a prequel and it will address that question directly.

Series mastermind James DeMonaco, who wrote and directed the first three movies, spoke to Vulture about the new film, saying that it will be about the “first experimental Purge” and confirming that it’s set to arrive just in time for the Fourth of July next year (these movies have never been subtle). While DeMonaco has stepped out of the director’s seat for Gerard McMurray, he’s still writing the screenplay and he’s taking us back to where it all began.

As you may recall, the Purge movies are set in a sci-fi tinged near-dystopia where “The New Founding Fathers” rule the nation with an iron fist. And while the first movie was a home invasion film with a high-concept hook, the sequels grew bigger, more ambitious, and a helluva lot more political. The result is one of the most fascinating horror franchises out there at the moment: a blend of a violent schlock and political “wokeness” that inexplicably go together like peanut butter and chocolate. DeMonaco used this series to stage elaborate, grotesque murders and explore class warfare in ways that feel increasingly timely. No one will accuse the Purge movies of being high art, but they’re fascinating. It’s brutal satire delivered with the blunt force of a sledgehammer to the head, often while characters on screen are literally hitting each other on the head with sledgehammers.

Anyway, it certainly sounds like The Purge: The Island will continue to slather political commentary on top of gnarly horror junkfood. DeMonaco also told Vulture that the fourth film will take place entirely on Staten Island, where the poorest citizens are paid to stick around and murder each other while more well-off folks hightail it to Brooklyn:

I was wondering how you get people to stay for the first Purge, and what they do is they start monetizing it. People from Staten Island can easily go to Brooklyn for the evening, so what they do is start promising very decent sums of money for the very poor people in the neighborhood. It becomes a monetization of murder and violence, incentivizing killing and keeping people around for them to be victims. So you see the inception of how grotesque the idea of the Purge is, and the manipulation upon the society.

The politics and the science fiction world building have always been the most interesting part of the Purge movies. I can take or leave the grisly violence, but I love watching how various characters from all different backgrounds react to Purge night and how it’s just another thing they have to deal with in this insane world. I especially love how the second film introduced a resistance movement, led mostly by people of color (not a coincidence), intent on bringing down the white, faux-Christian government. Like I said: not subtle.

This is why I’m so intrigued by the Purge television series in the works for next year, which will explore what life is like in a world where everyday grudges and rivalries can turn bloody one night every year. As DeMonaco explained:

In the TV show I think we’re slowing it down, and we’re using this flashback structure to enter into the non-Purge lives of these people. We’re going back six months or two years or into their childhood to see some things that might’ve fed into their decision-making on this particular Purge … Ten hours is allowing us to get deeper into character and deeper into why people would actually consider violence as an option ever.

The Purge: The Island is set to open next year. I feel guilty for how much I’m looking forward to it.

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