Starting in 2013, The Purge is a franchise that I’m not sure many thought had legs. Since those humble beginnings though we’ve had a further four films, and even a television series, that have explored the world of an alternate America in which, for one night a year, all crime, even murder, is legal. The film series has been set all across the timeline of the Purge Night, from the first purge, through an election, to the latest film focusing on a never-ending purge. Pitched as potentially the last film in the franchise, The Forever Purge primarily takes place in the wake of the first annual Purge Night since the New Founding Fathers of America have found their way back into office. Typically, the end of Purge night is the end of the story, but this time around a faction of Purgers have decided that they’ve had enough of confining murder and mayhem to just twelve hours a year, and instead decide to continue the “fun” without restraint. They are determined to “cleanse” America of all immigrants and opposers. Cue a bitter battle for survival for everyone else.
The climate of the World has changed dramatically since the release of James DeMonaco’s The Purge. Back then it was seen as a silly home invasion film, riffing off of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, offering some mindless entertainment, but nothing more. Through the years, as the landscape of America has changed, the series has taken on an unexpectedly political edge. The fourth film, The First Purge, explored the unrest between white and black communities. In The Forever Purge the politics are embedded even further and, in the wake of Trump’s America, instill the film with real dread as its society doesn’t feel all that far from a similar uprising. This real world recognition moves the franchise well away from its popcorn fodder beginnings, exposing the true horror of civil war zone environments.
The Forever Purge was clearly created and made under the Trump administration. Director Everardo Gout taking full aim at the MAGA tribe. Here they have been “disguised” as a faction called Purge Purification, but the sentiment remains the same. Gout even goes so far as to use a disembodied voice for our first introduction to the cause that has a very strong Trump lilt and rhythm to the speech. It’s not exactly subtle, but works to hammer home the message that Gout is trying to convey. It should also be noted that the original pre-pandemic release was planned to have been July last year, and the film would have tapped into many of the heated situations that were arising.
Set within Los Feliz and El Paso, The Forever Purge focuses on the divide between Mexican immigrants and their American bosses. The story follows new-to-America couple Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta), and Juan’s bosses, the Tucker family. Tensions between Eldest son Dylan (Josh Lucas) and Juan are fraught before the purge, and in the chaos they find themselves having to work together to keep all of their loved ones safe. It’s an interesting and important relationship to have at the heart of a story like this, Gout clearly hoping to open up some intercultural conversations. Neither man is strictly good or bad, each is just happier immersed in their own culture, and as they start to share information and blend as a team, it proves that America could be truly United were people to set aside their differences.
There’s a shake-up to the format this time around, all the other films have spent early narrative time setting up for Purge Night before unfolding within the twelve hour period of mayhem, with only a fleeting peak into the aftermath. Here, Gout still spends some time pre-Purge Night, building up the event, but the night itself is over within only a few scenes. This is obviously because with it being a forever purge, the violence and bloodshed isn’t confined to the night time hours. Having the brutality play out in broad daylight adds an element of sombrity that has been lacking from many of its predecessors. The first film especially felt like it was going for over the top silly violence; here you can feel the group’s desperate fight for survival, and with daytime no longer safe, how long with the last?
Eventually the sun goes down, and it is then that Gout plunges everyone head-first into a horrifying war zone. If you thought Purge Night was bad then you ain’t seen nothing yet, the forever purge is the purest manifestation of anarchy brought to life. This is never more apparent than during a particularly intense walk through an alley in El Paso. Gout keeps the camera rooted on, and moving around, our hopeful survivors, meaning that the viewer has no idea what might pop up as their vantage point is blocked. The camera literally places the audience in the middle of the scrum, eliciting flashbacks to classic first person motion master video roller coaster rides, whilst pushing your heart-rate through the roof. This sequence is sustained for several moments, and if you weren’t in with these characters before, you’re now one of the squad.
A franchise that began as an almost tongue-in-cheek throwaway home invasion flick has slowly morphed into a surprising and also prophetic series that tackles some very important political arguments. Gout has created a stark, entirely relevant, and eerily accurate reflection of our own society, whilst still giving franchise fans the anarchic mayhem that they crave.
If this is the genuine final entry into The Purge franchise then it’s going out on a high. Gout pumps real-world politics further into the fibre and DNA of the series, and by doing so has created something that is simultaneously entertaining, eye-opening, educational, and empathetic.
The Forever Purge is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 18th October 2021.
This review first appeared on THN.