make america hate again
The Forever Purge (15)
Director: Everardo Gout
Screenplay: James DeMonaco
Starring: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas
Review: RJ Bland
When James DeMonaco's The Purge was released in 2013, there wouldn't have been too many people who would have predicted that it'd go on to be one of the most successful horror franchises of the 21st Century to date. The original was not much more than a taut (but rather average) home invasion flick that didn't exactly blow people away (it's got a 39% score on Rotten Tomatoes). However, audience and critic approval is not something that is necessarily a priority for production companies looking to finance their next movie. The Purge only cost $3m to make and went on to take around $90m worldwide and that is music to the ears of producers like Michael Bay, Jason Blum and Brad Fuller. Realising that there was more money to be made by expanding upon an already intriguing concept, a sequel (Anarchy) was made a year later and again, made about ten times its budget at the box office. Since then we have had two more Purge movies (Election Year and The First Purge) and a television series too (although that's since been cancelled). It's safe to say that the political climate has only intensified since the inception of this franchise and they arguably seem more relevant and more plausible than ever before. So, releasing another instalment at a time when the US is still trying to heal fractured wounds and recover from a pandemic feels about right.
The year is 2048 and the NFA have regained control after eight years of a Purgeless America under Charlena Roan's (Elizabeth Mitchell) Presidency. The Purge is reintroduced, despite fears that rising levels of nativism and racism will mean that the event will be bigger and more damaging than ever before. It's an obvious concern for married migrant couple Juan (Tenoch Huerta) and Adela (Ana de la Reguera) who have escaped the persecution of the Mexican cartels and are looking to build a new life in Texas. Juan finds work on a ranch owned by the wealthy Tucker family (which includes Will Patton and Josh Lucas), a group who have differing views on multiculturalism. On the eve of Purge night, Juan and Adela pay to enter a walled sanctuary that is policed by armed guards whilst the Tuckers lock themselves down on their ranch. Although the evening is filled with death and horrific violence across the country, Adela, Juan and the Tuckers are safe and sound by the time it's all over. But as they all head back to work to begin another day, they begin to realise that although the Purge has officially ended, death and destruction is still carrying on around the US. And when news agencies confirm that there is an effective insurrection going on, by a group who believe in a Forever Purge (#ForeverPurge), Juan, Adela and the Tuckers team up to try and survive the ensuing bloodbath...
The Forever Purge is perhaps the most political of all of the Purge movies – which is no mean feat seeming as they've all got something to say on that front. Although racism has been a part of it (especially in The First Purge), the films have predominantly focused on social and economical divides. It's social cleansing, more than ethnic cleansing. That's still very much here too but it feels as if this has got its crosshairs trained on immigration and nationalism. Wealth and social class has been replaced with ethnicity and nationality, a decision that has undoubtedly been stoked by the developments in US politics over the last couple of years (cough* MAGA). Each movie in the franchise feels as if it is expanding in scope and in some ways, it feels more like dystopian sci-fi action than horror now. More Escape from New York than its home invasion roots ever promised.
But with a concept as simple and ingenious as the one that this series is based on, it's easy to see that there is a lot to explore and new ground to cover and The Forever Purge does a solid job of opening things up even more. The films have gone from being set in a house, to the streets of a city but it now operates at an international level. However, rather than letting the wider implications distract us, writer James DeMonaco centres it once again around a small group of characters who are built up rather nicely in the first act. Although we're meant to like Adela and Juan more than the wealthy white Tucker family, the film at least doesn't make it all as binary as you would think. Josh Lucas' character in particular is one that challenges the viewer. Is he a disillusioned patriot or a xenophobic asshole? You decide.
The decision to set most of the story after the Purge has officially ended also freshens things up a little too. Ultra violence in the scorching Texas sun feels more stark and sobering than the usual night time shenanigans. The sun does go down eventually and the action only ramps up, with some scenes feeling almost war like. The sense of anarchy the other films had is no longer confined and it spills out into the streets in bombastic fashion. Director Everardo Gout forces us into the midst of it all, which is something of a masterstroke. There is one scene in particular where we are placed directly amongst our protagonists as they navigate their way around the alleys and streets of a riotous El Paso that makes for heart pounding viewing.
It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The baddies we meet are as cartoonish and 2d as we've come to expect and the political allegory makes it all feel a bit less fun than it otherwise might. There are other aspects that could be explored here, about human nature and our desire to seek revenge or justice but these have been turfed out in favour or bigger and more obvious themes. For some people, that may make it all a bit less compelling. The final act is a little underwhelming too – with the film failing to reach the frenetic fury of its middle section.
However for us it's one of the better examples of the franchise and there's more than enough here for us to not roll our eyes when a sixth movie is inevitably announced.