The Purge: Election Year (2016)

James DeMonaco

Frank Grillo - Leo Barnes
Elizabeth Mitchell - Senator Charlie Roan
Mykelti Williamson - Joe Dixon
Joseph Julian Soria - Marcos Dali
Betty Gabriel - Laney Rucker
Terry Serpico - Earl Danzinger
Raymond J. Barry - Caleb Warrens
Edwin Hodge - Dante Bishop
Kyle Secor - Minister Edwidge Owens

Genre - Horror/Thriller/Action

Running Time - 109 Minutes

PLOT (from IMDB):
It’s been seventeen years since Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) stopped himself from a regrettable act of revenge on Purge Night. Now serving as head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), his mission is to protect her in a run for president and survive the annual ritual that targets the poor and innocent. But when a betrayal forces them onto the streets of D.C. on the one night when no help is available, they must stay alive until dawn… or both be sacrificed for their sins against the state.

Since THE FIRST PURGE is being released to theaters this week, with a Purge television show premiering in September, I figured I might as well give my thoughts on the third film in the franchise - 2016’s THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR. Even though I wanted to watch this film two years ago, the real political and social climate at the time turned me off to it. It’s bad enough being depressed and angry about real life. I didn’t need to watch a film about the same topics to infuriate me further. But I had heard decent things about the film and it remained on my radar since. Now having watched it for the first time, I have to say that THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR is not only smart, but it’s probably more relevant today than it was two years ago. I’m not saying that ELECTION YEAR is must see if you’re not a fan of this franchise, but it might be one of the more important horror films in the last decade if you’re willing to take a chance on it.

THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR is more of a continuation of THE PURGE: ANARCHY from 2014 than it is a follow-up to the original 2013 film. ELECTION YEAR has a similar tone, look, feel, and even a social awareness that ANARCHY really brought forth. As a fan of ANARCHY, I definitely liked ELECTION YEAR. While I do enjoy brainless, popcorn flicks that are just meant for audiences to have fun, I dig a film that provokes thinking through its social commentary. 
Obviously from the title, you can rightfully guess what ELECTION YEAR’s message is. The Purge event has caused a civil war in America, where the poor believe the rich are using the event to eliminate the lower class in order to save money on welfare, health care, social security, and other institutions the government must cover for its citizens. This commentary has pretty much been there since the start of the series, but really hits close to home in modern times due to our political and social landscape. I’m not here to share my political or religious beliefs, but it’s pretty safe to say that the world isn’t in the best shape societal wise these days. That makes ELECTION YEAR eerie, as it captures life in America pretty well.

I will say that the commentary is obviously one-sided, as the upper-class [or the New Founding Fathers of America] are clearly evil people who are so wrapped up in their sin that they refuse to let any sort of uprise and revolution stop them from using the Purge as a means to eliminate those they feel are useless to society [a.k.a. the lower class]. And they want to eliminate Senator Charlie Roan before she possibly wins the Presidency because she wants to get rid of the Purge for good - as she was a survivor of a previous Purge that murdered her family. But the commentary becomes a bit muddled, as the supposed victims of the Purge also tend not to be the greatest of people. Some of them feel justified in their actions, while others are just insane. It makes you question which side of the argument is right here, which I’m not sure is the point of the film or not. Judging by how it all ends, maybe it is. But I feel there should have been more of a balance in terms of good and evil. Maybe some of the upper class are against the Purge, disagreeing with the NFFA. But we never really meet those people, so ELECTION YEAR makes it seem that every single member of the rich are evil while only some of everyone else do have ethics and morals. Then again, don’t a lot of us think that? Maybe writer/director James DeMonaco was smart to play with our fears.

There’s also a subtle commentary on guns. Leo Barnes, our returning protagonist from ANARCHY who is now Senator Roan’s bodyguard, only uses a handgun and one of those heart attack knives you hide between your fingers. He never picks up a semi-automatic gun and only uses an explosive when necessary. The other characters have no issue using semi-automatics to take down their targets. With the gun culture as it is today, it seems DeMonaco is not denouncing the right to bear arms, but going against people using rifles or machine guns in every day life unless you’re part of the military. Barnes is capable of defending himself without using excessive weapons. And Barnes only uses them for self-defense, not to purposely injure or kill others. There’s something to that message, especially in today’s world.

I think the best part about the commentary is that it’s never really preachy. Sure, the messages aren’t subtle in any way. The movie is about class issues, racism, political strife, gun control, and so on. But it uses all that to craft a pretty strong story, never making ELECTION YEAR an uncomfortable sit through. Some people won’t watch this because they want to escape from these kind of issues, and that’s perfectly okay. But DeMonaco wants to make a film that is somewhat based on reality - something we can relate to. And I think that’s why this franchise has continued to survive.

As for the characters, I think they’re on-par, maybe even better structured, than the ones in ANARCHY. Leo Barnes returns, remaining the badass he was in the previous film. But he evolves in ELECTION YEAR, seeing different points of views when it comes to their scenario and seriously taking them all in. He still kicks ass when he needs to, but he puts a bit more thought into his actions now because of the people he encounters along the way. Senator Roan is also pretty well written, as she’s the ideal politician who believes in ethics and morals and wants to change America for the good. She doesn’t want to win her elections through murder, or scandal. She wants to go through the Purge to prove to the public that she means what she says. As a victim of the Purge itself previously, she also comes across as tough as nails - giving Leo a run for his money in terms of who’s in charge. Joe Dixon is a regular store-owner who wants to prove his only livelihood [even though the NFFA has cut off his insurance during The Purge], but ends up protecting Leo and Roan when they need his help. He’s more light-hearted and more accustomed to the street world than Leo is, giving them a nice conflict through most of the film. Lane Rucker risks going out during The Purge to save people who are injured during the night, which shows her strong and soulful character. Dante Bishop is a leader for those opposing the Purge. He plans on using the day to take out Roan’s rival so she can secure the Presidential seat. We also have the NFFA, who use religion as a way to justify their evil actions by murdering lower-class people while targeting Roan. They even hire white supremacists as their military to take out their rivals. So many different characters, but they all have their place in this film - giving us a glimpse of a multi-colored world that’s struggling with The Purge in different ways. I thought have the politicians and the citizens come together in a convincing way was a nice touch.

I also have to say that I was never more terrified by teenage girls than I was in ELECTION YEAR. Driving in cars covered in Christmas lights while blasting Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” just to steal from Joe Dixon’s store was pretty bizarre. The leader of the group was pretty annoying to be honest [like I said, the film isn’t perfect], but I thought it was a good way to show how the Purge has devolved society since the first film. And I also wished there was more to that “Purge Tourists” deal, where people outside of America would visit just to murder people for that 12 hour period. I think it’s an interesting concept that could have been explored more. Maybe in another film.

James DeMonaco pretty much continues what he did in ANARCHY. He’s created an open-box world where you’re never really sure who is on the up-and-up and who just enjoys killing people on a night where it’s legal. The film has great visuals at times, maintaining a gritty and bleak atmosphere that fits the social commentary. The action is shot pretty well, with DeMonaco never shying away from the violence of the night. Guns are fired. People are stabbed. Some are blown up. Others are beaten to death. We have people tied to hoods of cars and driven around like ornaments. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. I think if you liked the direction of ANARCHY, you’ll like the direction of ELECTION YEAR.

The acting in ELECTION YEAR is pretty damn good. Frank Grillo is just awesome as Leo Barnes. Like I mentioned in my ANARCHY review, he is the best thing about the PURGE franchise. He’s a great protagonist who is always pro-active and has a good heart, even if he takes himself more seriously than he should. Grillo is absolutely convincing as a pure badass who knows how to defend himself without batting an eye. I like his screen presence a lot. Elizabeth Mitchell, best known for her work on the television show Lost, is also very good as Senator Roan. She’s tough, smart, genuine, and can also convey vulnerability while trying to be a good leader. Mykelti Williamson is a joy to watch as Joe Dixon, bringing some light-hearted and fun to the film. He’s a scene stealer for sure, getting the best dialogue and making him the most likable new character. Joseph Julian Soria is good as Joe’s co-worker, Marcos. He’s tough and loyal. Soria portrays Marcos as a man who doesn’t want the American Dream destroyed by the Purge very convincingly. Betty Gabriel is badass as Laney, while Terry Serpico is great as the cold white supremacist, Earl. Also, mention to Kyle Secor as the delusional and evil Minister Owens. And honorable mention to Harmon James in his bit part as some sort of religious psycho in the final act. He’s so weird looking and acting, that I kept wondering what his deal was. There’s something up with this dude - so much so that I wouldn’t mind him in another film. Of all the crazy characters, he was probably the creepiest by far.

I enjoyed THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR more than I thought I would. While not perfect due to muddled social commentary at times, some annoying side-characters, and sub-plots that could have been explored more - the film is still the best of the first three films due to strong action, confident direction, and nicely developed characters we can easily love and/or easily hate. It’s scary to think how this film resonates more in 2018 than it did two years ago. If you want to escape from reality, ELECTION YEAR is probably a film you may want to skip over. But if you love this franchise and don’t mind watching a film that can hit pretty close to home, ELECTION YEAR probably won’t disappoint.

3 Howls Outta 4


Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

Lam Nai-Choi

Fan Siu-Wong - Lik Wong/ Ricky Ho
Fan Mei-Sheng - Assistant Warden Dan
Ho Ka-Kui - Warden
Yukari Oshima - Huang Chung/ Rogan
Tamba Tetsuro - Master Zhang
Frankie Chin - Hai/ Oscar
Koichi Sugisaki - Taizan/ Tarzan
Wong Kwai-Hung - Baishen/ Brandon

Genre - Action/Martial Arts/Supernatural

Running Time - 91 Minutes

Even though this blog is mainly going to focus on horror from now on, I still wanted to tackle a film that’s pretty notorious in bad film circles. I could have gone with MIAMI CONNECTION, or THE ROOM, or even TROLL 2. But as someone who probably hasn’t discussed enough martial arts films, it was only fitting that I would return with thoughts for 1991’s RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY. Based on a manga, my first exposure to this film was through The Daily Show back when Craig Kilborn was the host. Watching a man’s head explode as a recurring joke on the show elevated my interest in this film. Is this the only good part of the film? Is the rest of the film just as nutty as this clip is? After watching RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY a few times, I can honestly say the film is absolutely epic. Dumb as a bag of rocks, but epic nonetheless.

In the year 2001, young Ricky Ho (Fan Siu-Wong) is sentenced to a maximum security prison. He has been convicted of murder, stemming from revenge over the kidnapping and death of his girlfriend (Gloria Yip) by opium drug dealers. By his revenge has reason, as Ricky has figured out that the prison warden (Ho Ka-Kui) is the one in charge of the drugs and wants to confront him. Unfortunately, Ricky has to deal with sadistic prisoners and a devious Assistant Warden (Fan Mei-Sheng) who want to torture and kill him for standing up for himself and other prisoners. However these bullies have no idea who they’re dealing with, as Ricky has learnt special techniques that have granted him strong will and super-strength.


RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY is probably one of the most outrageous and goriest movies ever put to film. Like the manga it’s based off of, it’s a comic book brought to life. If you’re expecting good storytelling, top notch special effects, or logic - just look somewhere else. But if you’re a big fan of cheese, then RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY is right up your alley.

Like I mentioned earlier. the moment where a head explodes put RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY on my radar as Craig Kilborn kept using it on his version of The Daily Show. I figured that this gore effect was probably the highlight of the film, sort of how the head explosion is the best part of 1981’s SCANNERS. Nothing could top that, right?


Man, where do I begin with how crazy the violence is in RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY? Even after a couple of times watching it, the film still seems to shock and awe me at times. We have various broken noses. We have faces falling into a bed of nails. We have saws rammed into skulls. People are skinned alive. Eyes are poked right out of their sockets. Men are mutilated by a meat grinder. Body parts destroyed by punches right through them. Did I mention people explode? There’s so much going on in terms of gore and violence, that you laugh at it all due to desensitization. If you love 1992’s DEAD ALIVE, TOKYO GORE POLICE, or the EVIL DEAD franchise - then you’ll probably love RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY.

Speaking of laughs, the English dubbing is [in my opinion] the only true way to watch RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY. Every single stereotypical thought you have in your mind about how martial art films are dubbed are correct when it comes to RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY. The heroes are soft spoken. The villains cackle and sound like they need to clear their throats. And probably the highlight of the film - a little boy [who is probably a twenty-five year-old man in a school’s boy outfit] dubbed by a woman pretending to be a child. It’s so terrible that it’s incredibly charming. Sure, you could watch this film with sub-titles and enjoy the okay acting. But the dubbing truly puts RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY in the “so-bad-it’s-good” category for me. 

The special effects aren’t great, but they add to the appeal. It’s obvious that mannequins are used whenever major brutality is brought upon someone. And one character mutates into a Hulk-like creature to hilarious results. But you have to give the film credit for trying to bring a comic book-like visual presentation when it came to the violence and some of the characters. Seeing limbs ripped off and body organs used as weapons adds to the appeal, and the effects look believable enough in this world to not be bothersome. 

It’s helped that director Lam Nai-Choi knows what kind of film he’s making, using the visual style of the film to be the focus over the story. The film moves briskly, not once letting that logic settle in your mind to ruin the experience. You get action scenes, followed by hilarious flashbacks that add to Ricky’s character, followed by more action scenes. You never feel bored. You feel like the film is making you dumber. For a ninety-minute film, it feels a lot shorter. RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY knows it’s schlock, but uses that to its advantage for a good time.

And while you don’t get an elaborate story that creates bold character arcs for our main characters, the simple premise of revenge is really all you need in RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY. We learn why Ricky is arrested. We learn how he gained his abilities. And we learn why he doesn’t just break out of the prison with his super-strength, as he has a reason to stay inside the prison to complete his revenge. Sure, the other characters are cartoonish and are just there to be obstacles for Ricky and/or be lambs to the slaughter. But sometimes less is more. The message is told through the action, not the dialogue. That’s not always a bad thing in terms of a film like this.

If anything I wrote above isn’t your bag, then RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY is not for you. If you don’t like gore, don’t bother. If you don’t like over-the-top characters, don’t bother. If you don’t like really terribly funny dubbing, don’t bother. If you’re a film snob, why are you even reading this article?

Seriously, RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY won’t be for everyone and it’s not a perfect film. Yes, the film could use more story in terms of the drug sub-plot. Yes, the film could explain Ricky’s powers more. Yes, Ricky could punch out a wall, let the abused prisoners escape, and still get revenge on the Warden [but waits until the end to do that]. RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY is not a film that builds upon sense and logic. If you want a great story that you can bite your teeth into, you’re not finding it here. It’s just a gory and violent film, which might upset some.

And I will say that while Lam Nai-Choi does fine with the action sequences and highlighting the violence, he never really builds any atmosphere or tension with RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY. In fact, the set pieces are pretty bland. Yes, the film takes place in a prison, but I think more could have been done with the location. Especially when there are a Gang of Four - one boss in each directional block of the prison. Yeah, we never really go into these different blocks to see how one differs from the other. Yes, this technical stuff is not the point of RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY. But it could have been cool to see more than one section of the prison. 

Also, watching this without the dubbing will probably cause RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY to lose what makes it appealing to many. There are multiple versions of this film - both in its native language and subtitled in other languages; or in its dubbed form. RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY is probably an okay film on its own, but the dubbing elevates the film [in my opinion]. Usually the dubbing could be a major hinderance. But since the story for RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY is pretty much bare bones, the hilarious voice acting actually provides an upgrade. For those who hate dubbing, I say take a chance this time around. You’d lose something if you didn’t.

Even though RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY is a hard film to review, it’s not a hard film to enjoy. The story is pointless, the main plot is basic, the acting is second to the hilarious dubbing, and you’re not going to get any logic or character development that’ll make you heavily invested in most of the characters. That being said, what RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY does well, it does extremely well. And what the film does well is showcase over-the-top violence that’s so brutal, you can’t help but laugh at it and wonder if they’ll top it in the next sequence. RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY is the perfect example of a “so-bad-it’s-good” movie - made to have you and your friends be entertained while eating popcorn and drinking beer in front of the television for ninety-minutes. Sometimes you’re in the mood of Oscar bait. Other times, you’re in the mood for dumb, mindless entertainment. There’s a reason why RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY is still a favorite for “bad movie” lovers. It knows what it is and proudly shows it off to the point of excessive. If you love splatter, you’ll love RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY.

3.5 Howls Outta 4

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