James DeMonaco's The Purge
(2013) was surprisingly deft and politically conscious for a low-budget horror thriller, and this more expensive follow-up is even better—more expansive in scope and less schematic as storytelling. Like its predecessor, it takes place in a futuristic U.S. whose government has instituted a national "holiday" on which all crime is legal for one night. The first film centered on a wealthy family under siege in their suburban home; this one follows a group of strangers—all working- or lower-middle-class—as they try to get across downtown LA safely during the annual bloodbath. The violence is brutal and the social vision pessimistic, yet DeMonaco balances out these qualities with genuine sympathy for his protagonists. He also demonstrates a stronger sense of suspense than in the first film, generating tension steadily and elegantly. With Frank Grillo and Michael K. Williams.