Blumhouse and Universal release a brand new film in the Purge franchise this week, one that changes the concept forever, while hammering home its central themes.
The Purge franchise has had an interesting route. What started as, essentially, a quirky indie horror/slasher flick with a quirky premise, has evolved into a series that’s seen bigger and bigger set pieces and an overt message about the problems in our society.
The Forever Purge
Directed By: Everardo Gout
Written By: James DeMonaco
Starring: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Alejandro Edda, Will Patton
Release Date: July 2, 2021
Despite being a big ‘ol weenie when it comes to horror films, something about The Purge films have really struck a chord with me. Yes, they’re not subtle in the least about their themes/messaging and are often riddled with cliches. Even so, the story idea, action, and how they manage to endear you to the characters (mostly new in each film), always manages to be fun.
The Forever Purge is much the same in this regard. Generally speaking, you know what you’re getting into with the film, but the overall execution of it all makes for one of the most engaging entries in the series I’ve seen and it’s well worth checking out.
Unlike the previous film, which took the prequel approach to everything, The Forever Purge takes place a few years after the events of Purge: Election Year. The New Founding Fathers of America (the NFFA) have once again reclaimed power and their first act was to bring back the annual Purge. Thus, we get to see the “first” Purge since their return.
The story puts the focus on Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta), Mexican immigrants who’ve made the journey to America by crossing the border through….unofficial means. While they’re adjusting well to their new life in Texas (Adela helps run a butcher shop while Juan is a ranch-hand at a local farm), this will be the first time they have to deal with the terror of the Purge.
If you couldn’t tell by now, the film puts a lot of focus on race and race issues. The other main characters in the film are family members who own the ranch, primarily Dylan (Josh Lucas) and Emma Tucker (Cassidy Freeman). The married couple are nice enough folks, but Dylan’s biases against Mexicans is pretty apparent. We get to see them all interact together as they prepare for Purge night and how to move forward if they all manage to survive the night.
For the most part, the initial setup of the film feels almost like every other Purge movie we’ve seen so far. I was a bit concerned about this at first, and I began making some quick guesses about what would happen, who might betray who, just based on how the basics were following a similar path. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for the story to go off the rails and take things down a route I wasn’t exactly expecting.
Where the previous films always put the focus Purge night itself, it’s barely a blip in this film. As the name implies (and the trailers have shown) the real story in the film is what happens AFTER Purge night. Turns out, some people are no longer sated by a single night of violence and have plans to “take their country back” via a Forever Purge.
The “Ever After” movement, as it’s called isn’t a limited/localized event. Rather it’s affecting the entire country, essentially throwing us into a state of Civil War. Again, the film isn’t subtle, and the group in question are made up of white supremacists seeking to “cleanse” the country. It’s complete and utter chaos.
As Juan, Adela, Dylan, and Emma (along with a few others) come to realize something has gone horribly wrong, they must find a way to work together despite their differences to survive. And wouldn’t you know it, the only safe place to find refuge are at the Mexican and Canadian borders.
The adjacent countries have seen the crisis taking place with the “Forever Purge” and have announced they’re keeping their borders open for a limited time to refugees looking to escape the carnage. Being in Texas, with only a few hours before those borders, the group must race to the border, crossing literal warzones in the process. I don’t want to go much further into the story elements to keep away from spoilers, but suffice it to say, there’s a whole lot of blood and killing going on in the process.
Without mincing words here: I liked it. I liked The Forever Purge quite a bit, actually. I’ve always enjoyed the messages in the movies and how the franchise has never veered away from overtly addressing certain issues. While this make certain moments, even dialog, feel a bit ham-fisted, overall it manages to work and ensure that important lessons are conveyed even among the carnage.
Despite being a relatively short film at just about an hour and a half, it does an impressive job of conveying a good chunk of information without holding back on the action. On top of that, I was impressed at how quickly I formed attachment to all of the new characters, which made me more invested in their journey and struggles along the way. Ana de la Reguera and Tenoch Huerta are almost instantly likable, and even better, believable in their roles once the action kicks off.
Honestly, the only thing I can really think of that didn’t work for me in The Forever Purge were the horror elements. Yeah, I know, big shocker from the horror-weenie, but that’s not really the issue here. By and large, The Purge films have progressively moved closer to being an ACTION franchise over horror.
Personally speaking, I have loved seeing that change, and it’s more prevalent in The Forever Purge than any of the previous films. Hell, there are moments the feel pulled straight out of Mad Max that had me grinning ear-to-ear. There are a number of “holy shit” action sequences that wouldn’t feel out of place in any other blockbuster, and it’s great fun seeing Ana de la Reguera continue to be a badass (just like she was in Army of the Dead).
When the movie does try to scare you, it keeps things about as basic as can be with simple jump scares that, for the most part, you can see coming a mile away. Rather than upping the tension, these attempts to keep the horror aspect around felt like they took away from the overall experience. Jolting me out of the moment rather than immersing me more. They just felt out of place and almost lazy in their effort to do something that would be more consistent with the genre in its pedigree.
By the time we get to the big finale/action piece, it felt clear that the movie shined when it embraced its true nature as an R-rated action flick. I just wish they would have gone whole hog with it and left those horror elements entirely behind. There’s enough blood and gore to satisfy the slasher fans, but if you’re looking for scares, you won’t find many.
Some of the scenes, in light of certain real-life events that have happened *cough*January 6th*cough*, hit a little differently. I know the film was made long before those things happened, but that makes it eerily topical and prescient. For a series that’s never shied away from politics, The Forever Purge is a bit more on the nose than before. While not everyone will be on board with that, it certainly adds to the experience in ways I wasn’t expecting.
I had a whole bunch of fun watching The Forever Purge. Sure it lacks subtlety and gets a bit predictable at points, but I was never bored during the experience. Ultimately, as the credits rolled, I found myself eager to see what could happen next (though supposedly this could be the “final” movie) and thinking about the implications in what I saw. My normal reaction to a Purge movie is, “huh, that’s interesting and fun” but wouldn’t care one way or another about seeing a sequel. As such, I’d say that makes Forever pretty damn successful in what it’s trying to do.