Written by: Matt Patti | July 1st, 2021
The Forever Purge (Everardo Gout, 2021) 2½ out of 4 stars.
The Purge franchise is a peculiar one. I remember the excitement and anticipation that was building in the spring of 2013 near the release date of The Purge, as moviegoers imagined what it would be like to have a night in which all crime was legal for 12 hours. That film would disappoint, though, despite its creative concept, as the filmmakers wasted its potential by confining the film to a single house. My personal favorite in the series, The Purge: Anarchy, would be released just a year later; it met with much critical acclaim and positive reaction from the public, taking the audience out of the house and into the streets on the chaotic night. There would be two more Purge films released in 2016 and 2018. These were also intriguing and far better than the original one, but the quality of the filmmaking would decline and the concept would become a bit tired with these two entries.
After 2018’s prequel, The First Purge, and a Purge TV series (that I have not experienced), I thought that there was nothing more that Universal could squeeze out of the concept. How wrong I was, as a few weeks ago I saw a trailer for a brand-new Purge film, The Forever Purge. The fact that I’d only heard about this film’s existence a few weeks before I would watch it certainly concerned me. Also, the concept of a “Forever Purge” sounded terribly stupid and pointless. How could a film that has people purging outside of the allotted time be interesting? How is it different than regular crime on the other 364 days of the year? Surprisingly, The Forever Purge delivers thrills similar to those of the last three movies and even adds a little more, while also suffering from some of the issues that plague previous entries.
The Forever Purge begins on a ranch in a small Texas town where modern-day cowboys are doing work around the farm. The owner of the ranch (Josh Lucas, Ford v Ferrari) isn’t thrilled when a Mexican ranch hand, Juan (Tenoch Huerta, Tigers Are Not Afraid), shows him up in an attempt to tame a wild horse. We learn through newscasts that immigration from Mexico to the U.S. is at an all-time high due to Mexicans fleeing the cartels, and that the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) have been reelected to power once again thanks to some Americans’ desires to reinstate the Purge. The racial tensions on the farm and in the town between Mexicans and whites are uncomfortable, to say the least, with both sides struggling to remain civil and many refusing to accept the others’ way of life. On the evening of the once-again annual Purge, Juan and other Mexican workers all venture to a warehouse where they are locked down and kept safe. On the morning after the Purge, however, the crime does not stop this time. We learn that disgruntled Americans have come together on a mission to “purify” America in what they call “the ever-after Purge.” With the ever-after purgers running rampant around the town, Juan and the owners of the ranch he works for band together to try to find a safe haven. However, they soon find that this “ever-after Purge” is taking over most of America.
Something intriguing I’ve noticed with Purge films is that they always released at the perfect time. The themes of each film typically reflect what is happening in America today in some way. 2016’s The Purge: Election Year, for example, came out on the cusp of one of the craziest elections in U.S. history. The Forever Purge follows suit. With much unrest around the 2019 election, riots, and America being so very divisive at the moment, especially politically, the filmmakers of The Forever Purge capitalize on that and deliver a film that feels very relatable and frighteningly possible. The parallels in this film to current American society are in plain sight, though the film could work to make them a bit more subtle. In addition to its themes, the film offers surprisingly satisfactory action and suspense sequences throughout that take place amongst impressive, well-crafted set pieces. As always, the sound design and sound effects are top-notch and quite chilling. The cinematography and editing, too, in this film, seem to be better than in the previous two installments.
Sadly, The Forever Purge is still bogged down with problems that many other films in the franchise also face. Cheap, false jump scares are littered throughout the first half and the whole eerie feeling behind the Purge is a bit lost now that law enforcement is involved more heavily. What started as a horror franchise has definitely turned into more of an action-thriller saga, which is actually more fitting. But the franchise cannot properly execute horror elements any longer. Also, though the themes are enthralling, there are too many on-the-nose bits of dialogue that hit you over the head with the film’s message. Regardless of how one feels about the theme, the painfully obvious dialogue takes the viewer out of the film. Finally, the characters, as in many of the other entries in the franchise, are not very compelling and are easily forgettable. The film could benefit from some more set-up in the first half to establish these characters and also to fully explore how the Purge was reinstated and the NFFA got back to power, but The Forever Purge rushes into its plot a bit too quickly.
In the end, The Forever Purge is far better than I expected it to be. I think fans of the Purge franchise, like myself, will be entertained by it and have a good time with the film. However, I think some critics and some of the general public may dismiss it as a mediocre thriller with many issues. Though it has many faults, The Forever Purge will still have impact and be memorable to many, as it almost functions as a warning of what America could be like if we grow even more divided and hateful. I’d like to hope that Universal will leave things on a high note and go out with this better-than-it-should-be fifth film of the franchise. But I have a feeling they won’t, and we’ll be back in a few years wondering how much more Universal can pump out of this hit-or-miss series.