Horror sequels are a foregone conclusion, a rule of the genre. If the story is expansive or successful enough, multiple trips to the same universe follow. Though some sequels strive to outdo the original story, rarely do the films achieve higher than a second-best appeal. When “The Purge” debuted last year, it felt like a given that another film would continue in the world where crime is legal for a day. After the release of the second film, a new annual horror tradition arrives.
“The Purge: Anarchy” returns to the world a year after the events of the first film. Following a waitress raising her daughter and father alone, a young couple, and mysterious vigilante Sergeant (Frank Grillo), each has different reasons for being out on the night of the annual purge: the family is looking for the missing grandfather; the couple is stranded while seeking refuge; and Sergeant is out to avenge the loss of a loved one. However, a short series of events bring them together, with Sergeant (Grillo) as their reluctant leader. Despite helping the others, Sergeant remains focused on completing his revenge before the night is out.
Character wise, “The Purge: Anarchy” is a strong improvement over the original. The first film’s cast were unrelatable and one-dimensional. For the second go-around, we can see a more diverse and believable collection of people. Grillo has seen his star risen in recent years, and here he shines in his biggest role yet.
Despite being a richer, deeper exploration of the purge’s rules and environments, it still doesn’t elevate beyond the classist themes of the first film. If anything, it expands on preexisting themes while erecting scenes for occasional carnage. Borrowing from the “Aliens” template, the characters here are more violent and stronger, fighting tooth and nail for survival. A solid followup to a new franchise. With an ability to not recycle any actors or sets, the film has a lot of potential to create a low-budget with high returns similar to “Paranormal Activity.” 2.5 out of 5 stars
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