A nation reborn…again. Why again? The eradication of The Purge from the prior president elect was reinstated as soon as the The New Founding Fathers of America won back the presidency in the subsequent election. Need a recap on what The Purge is? For one day, all crime—including murder—is legal for 12 hours. This is America.
Why would anyone want to try and make a life here? Mexican couple Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta) have survived equally as worse in Mexico, making their decision to cross the border in pursuit of the classic American dream much easier. They’ve settled at a Texas ranch along with friend T.T. (Alejandro Edda) as mostly hired hands for caretakers Dylan (Josh Lucas) and his pregnant wife Cassie Tucker (Cassidy Freeman), the former harboring prejudice against foreigners. The annual Purge commences and ends with the sirens going off at 7AM. Adela, Juan, T.T., Dylan, and Cassie have survived, but this Purge isn’t over. A rebel group has decided to continue in the bloody release that the Purge offers in the name of cleansing the nation. Rules are meant to be ignored.
Yours truly generally considers himself a fan of The Purge franchise, which has been fine in overall quality since its debut in 2013. When that first trailer dropped, there was a real buzz (at least in the office I worked in at the time) about this unique, frightening, and not totally implausible premise. The name sounded cool, and it was marketed well. Eight years later, five films deep, and two television seasons logged, I can’t speak for everyone, though I imagine many of even the most ardent of supporters would concede that The Purge franchise hasn’t quite realized its full potential as a razor-sharp mirror to society. Instead, most of the films have settled into a “serviceably average” range; its themes notably timely but packed with the subtlety of a Mike Tyson haymaker in his prime. The Forever Purge follows in the same lane as an overt, technically well-made, occasionally tense, and sometimes eye-rolling installment.
With the release of 2014’s The Purge: Anarchy, the series pivoted from contained outright horror-thriller to wide-open action-thriller in a wise decision to show the stressful straights the annual holiday would put on those unfortunate to be caught outside well-fortified walls (and even an adequate security system has proven to be ineffective when the NFFA has ulterior motives beyond giving the population the chance to purge and purify). Perhaps the most surprising thing about the movies is how sneaky impressive they are as fairly low-budget actioners. Whether directed by James DeMonaco, Gerald McMurray, or now Everardo Valerio Gout, an exploitative, mini-grindhouse grit exists in many of the action scenes.
As the director this go-around, Gout—clearly inspired by True Detective’s season 1 one-shot in one notable setpiece—uses the Tex-Mex setting to stage a few rock-solid shootouts and close-quarters engagement. The series continues to create visually striking masks, giving movie-loving Halloween party attenders another option for the holiday. Two things: 1. There are jump scares, and there are The Forever Purge jump scares that Miss Cleo could see coming, and 2. For a franchise that takes place in the future (albeit somewhat near), it is odd that the 2040’s do not look any different than the world we live in now. Though sci-fi isn’t the focus of these movies, what is the point of setting these in the future if what is seen looks the same?
Whether writing or directing, the connective tissue between five films and two television seasons has been DeMonaco, who only writes here. DeMonaco is a man of many interconnected ideas and themes. In The Forever Purge, the focus remains the emphasis that The Purge’s true mission is not a release of anger for everyone, but an easy way for a totalitarian government to perform population control somewhat covertly on the undesirables dregs and scourges of society, which in the Purge universe, happen to be minorities, particularly African-Americans and Hispanics. The Forever Purge partly walks back the conclusion of Election Year, showing the powder-keg result when 12 hours isn’t enough for groups whether majority or minority who have been fed racial and class division the other 364 days of the year. Hard not to see the parallels between the majority group featured in the film and say, the Proud Boys.
Throughout the series, each movie has had a few lines of dialogue or shots that reminds viewers of the high ceiling the premise had, but they’re often offset by on-the-nose statements of declaration and side characters who are too deep on the end of caricatures; a racist, blood-lusting brute possessing infinite knowledge of every weapon he hears in the back of a police transport vehicle might take the cake of the entire franchise when it comes to over-the-top ideas. Furthermore, the choice DeMonaco tries to make in redeeming a major character is haphazard. So, characters at large haven’t been the brightest spot in this franchise, but thankfully, whether Frank Grillo’s Barnes from Anarchy and Election Year, Y’Lan Noel’s Dimitri and Lex Scott Davis’ Nya from The First Purge, and now Reguera and Huerta, the lead characters have been respectable enough to be engaged with their plights, and casting smaller talent has helped to buy into this world in a way larger talent would not have.
If these thoughts partly read like a series synopsis rather than a singular focus on The Forever Purge, that is partly intentional. It’s become harder to separate these from another, and honestly, I don’t think series creator DeMonaco would want it any other way. Like America, I know what I’m getting out of a Purge movie now, for better and for worse.
Photo credits go to news.yahoo.com, bloody-disgusting.com, and theforeverpurge.com.
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