Happy Fourth of July to our American neighbours! To celebrate the American holiday Blumhouse Productions is releasing the fourth film in its Purge franchise, The First Purge. The timing of the release may cut a little too close to home for some viewers. But The Purge films has never been one to shy away from a little political commentary. To date, each Purge film has earned more than its predecessor on small budgets. As such, a prequel may seem unnecessary, but it was pretty much inevitable. To mark the release of the prequel, in this edition of The Chopping Block, I list the nine best villains across the first three franchise films.
9 – Grace Ferrin (Arija Bareikis, The Purge)
The Purge wasn’t necessarily a great film; it was a serviceable execution of a fascinating premise. Perhaps the best moment of The Purge comes at its climax. With the Sandin’s exhausted and captured, their neighbours arrive to save the day. Except the neighbours aren’t there to rescue the Sandins. No, they’ve shown up to ‘purge’ against them. Their jealously of the Sandin’s wealth achieved at their own expense delivered a biting commentary on American consumerism. Grace Ferrin, as the cordial face of this suburban contempt, was the perfect representation of the banal nature of evil.
8 – Old Elegant Woman (Judith McConnell, The Purge: Anarchy)
The Purge: Anarchy opened up the world of ‘The Purge’ from its original ‘home invasion‘ setting. reaping much greater rewards in terms of overall quality. This expansion allowed writer and director James DeMonaco to really explore the ‘class wars’ theme that was bubbling under the surface of the first film.
The auction scene near the film’s climax cuts right at the nature of privilege that defines much of real-world oppression and violence. And privilege in the world of ‘The Purge’ is no better exemplified than by Judith McConnell’s ‘Old Elegant Woman.’ As the enthusiastic MC for the human auction, the ‘Old Elegant Woman’s’ exaggerated facial expressions and dialogue delivery come together to create a truly vile villain.
7 – Uncle Sam (Roman Blat, The Purge: Election Year)
In terms of screen time and impact, ‘Uncle Sam’ doesn’t really do much in The Purge: Election Year. He’s more or less on this list for two reasons. First, the character design is downright cool and a thematically perfect fit for the franchise. There’s just something creepy about the mask, and the gun painted with the ‘stars and stripes’ adds some nice background commentary. Second, the concept of ‘murder tourists’ is a nice addition to ‘The Purge’ mythology and one I wished the sequel had opted to focus on.
6 – Earl Danzinger (Terry Serpico, The Purge: Election Year)
Let’s face it – Election Year’s primary antagonist is a step down from ‘Big Daddy’ and even most of the secondary villains of Anarchy. The fault doesn’t lie with actor Terry Serpico who manages to bring a menacing presence to the role. He just doesn’t have much to work with as Earl Danzinger, the leader of the New Founding Father’s para-military squad. His placement this high up on the list owes to the social commentary of the character, intended or not. Danzinger’s Neo-Nazi roots was eerie foreshadowing of the troubling emergence of real-world hate crime organizations in the last year and a half.
5- Leader Caleb Warrens (Raymond J. Barry, The Purge: Election Year)
At some point in the franchise, one of the New Founding Fathers had to eventually surface as an antagonist in the film. Leader Caleb Warrens, played by Raymond J. Barry, has only a small role in Election Year but the character perfectly exemplifies both the appearance and characteristics of the ‘one percent’. Arrogant and callous, his demise in the climatic church shoot-out is a highlight of the third film.
4- Big Daddy (Jack Conley, The Purge: Anarchy)
While he’s not necessarily the most compelling villain on this list, Anarchy’s ‘Big Daddy’ was arguably the major antagonist in the second film of the franchise. More of a background villain in Anarchy, ‘Big Daddy’ had a straightforward, white middle America look that worked well for the ‘class wars’ theme that was explored a little more as compared to the first film. Conley also has a blunt, commanding presence befitting of the character.
3- Freakbride/Kimmy (Brittany Mirabile, The Purge: Election Year)
She may only have a small role and, yes, the politicians are the real villains in Election Year, but Brittany Mirabile’s ‘Freakbride’ (or Kimmy) easily stands out in the franchise as one of the more vile villains. Maybe it’s her brash sense of entitlement or perhaps it’s Mirabile’s heel-delivery of her dialogue, but the ‘Freakbride’ inspires exactly the kind of contempt you need from villains. In addition, her ‘Purge’ mask and costume give the character just enough menace to make her feel like a compelling threat.
2 – The Polite Stranger (Rhys Wakefield, The Purge)
Articulate, intelligent, and brimming with rage, the ‘Polite Stranger’ was the ideal villain for The Purge. At their heart, The Purge films are about the innate violence that resides in each of us. Portrayed by Rhys Wakefield, the ‘Polite Stranger’ was the perfect representation of how our social niceties mask our more primal urges. Like a mini-Patrick Bateman, ‘The Polite Stranger’ just had a smarmy expression and dialogue delivery that had you counting down to the moment where he would finally get his comeuppance.
1 – Young Ghoul Face (Lakeith Stanfield, The Purge: Anarchy)
No, he doesn’t say much in the film. He’s a secondary antagonist in the rapidly growing ‘Purge’ mythology. Yet Lakeith Standfield’s ‘Young Ghoul Face’ is probably the scariest villain in the franchise. From the simply creepy mask to the menacing gestures, the ‘Young Ghoul Face’ has just the right presence and demands attention whenever he is on screen. Marketers obviously clued in to the vibe Stanfield was giving off because the character featured prominently in the advertising for the second film.