Synopsis – All the rules are broken as a sect of lawless marauders decides that the annual Purge does not stop at daybreak and instead should never end.
My Take – Whenever horror franchises are taken into account, The Purge series sticks out as a sore thumb, mainly as they aren’t exactly great as the horror genre goes. Sure, they are entertaining enough as dark action thrillers, but the quality of their installments and the cancelled two season TV series have always been all over the place, never sticking the actual proposed landing.
Beginning in 2013, the first film helmed by franchise creator James DeMonaco was technically a small high tech home invasion thriller backed by an intriguing concept, which was very financially successful, but ended up leaving a sore taste due to its poor execution and scattered social commentary.
Factors which were majorly improved upon in the following sequels, The Purge: Anarchy (2014) and The Purge: Election Year (2016), as it moved the action to a broader view of the night, gave us a likable set of interesting characters to root for, and fully embraced the political aesthetic at the heart of franchise. That is until the series took another severe beating in its next entry.
With DeMonaco stepping down as the director and sticking only to writing credits, the Gerard McMurray directed prequel not only became the highest-grossing entry in the franchise, but also ended up being the worst critically and thematically, mainly due to its overreaching concern about covering its weak story with half backed thrills, like a bad TV film.
While DeMonaco once again passes on the torch to a fresh director Everardo Gout, the end result this time around is a surprising improvement, as the fifth and (presumed) final entry is actually enjoyable.
Probably because the situations created in the earlier films seemed more science fiction than actual possibility, while this film released about six months after an insurrectionist mob composed of militant white supremacists and mass Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol demanding a recount etc., attacking the country’s democracy roots at the same time.
This film is closest to what America’s reality may look like in a few years, especially considering how Republican politicians continue to downplay those events, and Trump doing his best at radicalizing his supporters at rallies.
Here, director Everardo Gout and creator-writer James DeMonaco add more authenticity to the story by setting the film in Texas, which is brimming with white supremacist groups hell-bent on taking back their country. And to watch our protagonists dodge and shoot down this fascist rednecks makes for one hell of a satisfying watch.
Acting as a direct follow up to The Purge: Election Year, President Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) has completed her terms, and the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) upon returning back to office quickly reinstate the annual Purge event.
But this time around the story follows Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta), a married couple who in order to get away from the cartels, illegally cross the border from Mexico into the United States. Ten months later, now living in a small Texas town, Adela is well adjusted working at a meat packing facility, but Juan continue to struggle playing cowboy at the Tucker Ranch, run by Caleb Tucker (Will Patton) and his son Dylan Tucker (Josh Lucas).
With the annual Purge upon them, Adela and Juan along with their friend T.T (Alejandro Edda) take refuge in a walled sanctuary with armed security to protect them, the Tucker family bunkers down in their tightly secured home, with Caleb’s daughter, Harper (Leven Rambin) and Dylan’s pregnant wife, Cassie (Cassidy Freeman) joining them.
Though everything proceeds in typical Purge fashion during the night, the real trouble begins the next day, as domestic terrorists with white-supremacist inclinations rise up across the country, calling it the Ever After Purge and refuse to stop the killing and mayhem. Before long, the whole countries’ well-armed populace is descended into chaos, forcing the Tuckers to join Adela, Juan and T.T and try to make it across the safe harbor the Mexican border provides.
Being set in Texas, the film does touch a bit harder on the racial side of the Purge, but not too much to distract from the real reason the audience is there – to show how frightening society could actually get. The idea of the purge is ridiculous and so are the people who would take part, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous.
It also makes its themes more overt than ever, reducing its mob of faceless killers to even more of an abstract, with the heroes facing set after set of attackers rather than one central villain, each with a focus on a different boogieman from socioeconomic anxiety to out-and-out racism. And the way the Purge enthusiasts target anyone who isn’t pure is chilling and a bit too believable, which may make some so uncomfortable.
Here, director Everardo Gout does a fantastic job of keeping the momentum up by balancing the action sequences with scenes of rising tension, while the other entries had a time frame to create the tension, this time around that aspect is removed to make the mayhem more terrifying and the danger to the players more prevalent. Add to that unlike its predecessors, much of the action takes place in day time, hereby exposing clear faces of the attackers.
Unlike many of the other Purge films, in which not getting to know the characters is kind of the point, this film is very much about this core group of white and Latino players whose lives we are thrown into quite a bit before the campaign of mayhem even begins. The only way they can survive is by seeing their common dilemma and working together, and their journey is brutal, bloody and not without casualties. The story does a solid job of introducing us to new characters, making us actually care about their safety and then throwing them into some genuine dystopian chaos that could only feel so real after the past few years.
But despite its eerie reflection of the times, the film never gets too political. The franchise has always contained a substructure that examines the disparity between the haves and have-nots, especially as concerned with race, here, it never gets text-heavy and only slights indulges in political overtures.
The only issue I had with the film is how the third act leans heavily into generic action territory. While the masked cowboys are heavily featured in marketing and the film’s first half, they fade away and are quickly replaced by neo-nazis. One of the recurring elements of the franchise has been the elaborate and often legitimately unsettling masks, and ditching them for denim and ratty beards leaves much to be desired.
Performance wise, Josh Lucas, Will Patton, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin and Alejandro Edda bring in notable turns, however, the film is a showcase for Ana de la Reguera, who is once again in action heavy mode following Army of Dead, and Tenoch Huerta, from Narcos: Mexico, who act as the film’s main anchors. On the whole, ‘The Forever Purge’ is a better entry into the series, heavy on the action thrills and light on the politics.
Directed – Everardo Gout
Rated – R
Run Time – 103 minutes