The Forever Purge
The latest in this tired franchise continues the downward trend
The Purge films have always ridden a fine line between being exploitative gore-fests and trying to be socially trendy. Producers Jason Blum and Michael Bay have found a new “fresh” formula, similar to what the Saw and Paranormal Activity films discovered, of mass-producing films with small budgets and high returns. Thus, we’ve gotten five Purge films in the last eight years (it would have been in seven years save for the COVID-19 delays), the latest being The Forever Purge (2021).
The Forever Purge takes place after the events of The Purge: Election Year (2016), which had ended with a new presidential candidate (Elizabeth Mitchell) putting an end to the gruesome tradition of having one night a year where all crime, including murder, is legal. The Forever Purge seems to erase this resolution, having the event reinstated. The Forever Purge Focuses on a border town in Texas, finding frictions between Mexican immigrants (Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta) and the white residents (Josh Lucas, Leven Rambin) of a ranch. After the annual “purge,” however, these two groups are brought together as they find many radical Americans ignoring the allotted time for violence and crime and carrying on a “forever purge.”
Despite Purge creator James DeMonaco’s best intentions of trying to provide social commentary about class, racism, and politics, his narrative wrapping is too weak to make his films carry any subtlety. His exploration of electoral tensions in 2016 with Election Year were worthy of facepalms, yet carried some entertaining action value. DeMonaco’s step away from the director’s chair and into the sole screenwriting role has made this action dissipate even more. The First Purge (2018) showed how lazy the writing had become, relying on its characters making the stupidest of decisions in order to place them in a tense situation. The Forever Purge carries this same trend, with DeMonaco again writing and Everardo Gout taking the director’s chair. DeMonaco’s exploration of racism and immigration is as on-the-nose as a truck running you over, and Gout seems to fall into the rhythms of a Saw film, making the action seem exploitative and dizzying.
The biggest problem with The Forever Purge might be the alienation from the formula established in previousfilms of the franchise. DeMonaco seems to be trying to write a Western Purge mixed with a zombie survival story. It clashes against the patterns of the rest of the series and instead of seeming like a fresh revival, stinks of a desperate rebrand.
The cast is spruced up from The First Purge, carrying strong leads from de la Reguera and Huerta, who provide a depth and dedication that this film did not deserve. However, the actors playing the “racists” have a harder time reining themselves in and not being over-the-top, making the horrors of their subject seem goofy in comparison.
The Forever Purge is yet another example (after The First Purge) of how the franchise is quickly running out of ideas. DeMonaco had solved the narrative arc of his trilogy in the Election Year, yet he’s been forced to dig up some semblance of a continuation. The continuing milking of the IP is quickly drying up creative avenues in the series, delivering the kind of duds and bore-fests that killed off Saw and Paranormal Activity before it. Sadly, as long as a sizeable profit is set to be made, Blumhouse and Universal will continue to pump out Purge films with no regard to their necessity or creative demand.