The American Tradition of Purging continues!
Independence Day is here, and it is time for another Purge movie! For those who are unfamiliar, “The Purge” is an annual holiday where all crime is legal for 12 hours and emergency services become unavailable. According to the New Founding Fathers, the political leaders who founded the Purge, anyone can rob, kill, and destroy for one full night as a way to clean their plate of internalized anger. Audiences who have kept up with this series will know that that was not the true reason behind the holiday, as it was a plot by the ‘New Founding Fathers’ to diminish the poor population.
The Forever Purge takes place following the events of Election Year, where the newly elected president promised to take steps in abolishing the annual Purge. Inevitably, the “New Founding Fathers” were elected back into office, and immediately reinstated the annual Purge. One year, just after the annual night ends and all crime becomes illegal again, a group of people start their own Purge to continue onward. Caught in the middle of this are a group of ranchers in Texas, two of whom have migrated from Mexico almost a year before. With the public violently running around, neighboring countries have opened their borders for a short amount of time. Now this group of ranchers must band together and reach the Mexican border alive before they are stuck in the United States and hunted down in the name of “Purge Purification.”
Although none of the entries in the Purge series are good, per say, they do still carry an intriguing premise that comments on human behavior and corruption. Sadly, though, the strength of the commentary is limited to the premise, as the films seem to focus more on shock value and surface-level references to violence. This can be said for each single entry, although each film improves on the other in regard to the scope. The primitive home invasion setting of the first film was put aside to further explore the country-wide impact of the Purge and how it affects other people of difference classes.
What The Forever Purge does, very cleverly, is break from the series’ formula and explores the day following the Purge. After 4 films of more or less the same plot, the series finally addresses the possibility of people not truly feeling satisfied after one full night of purging, which rings true to human behavior. While ‘Election Year seemed to signify the end of the chaos, the Forever Purge shows that there is no true end to destructive human behavior and political corruption; a hard, but important, pill to swallow. The current political climate of the United States is also properly reflected in the film, as it tackles topics such as illegal immigration, white supremacy among the masses, a angry public with no sense of control, and the use of problematic hashtags. Given the real-life events that occurred in the past year alone, there is no better time for a Purge movie than now.
The question is, is The Forever Purge a good movie? Not exactly. Similar to the other entries in the series, the interesting aspects are only within the premise and setup. What actually occurs in these films range from bland and boring to just plain laughable. Granted, in the midst of violence and prejudice, a rational conversation could be rather hard to come by, but some of the circumstances these characters find themselves in feel too forced and convoluted. It is as if the filmmakers are more concerned with a checklist of political and societal references, rather than clear and precise characters for audience members to get behind. Sure, the commentary on racist America is present in this film, and the elements for a good film are here, but the characters are not interesting enough to give the film the fire or stakes to be compelling.
Although there are not as many goofy characters here as in previous entries, The Forever Purge can’t help but contain a few. For instance, in one scene, there is a biker with a swastika face tattoo, and with glee, he is able to identify the sound of multiple guns being fired as if he were a music scholar pointing out instruments. Anyone who closely follows the Purge films will recognize this as the mandatory cartoon character that appears in each entry, such as the “candy bar” kid from Election Year. There is no doubt that people like this exist, but this feels like a character added in solely for the sake of a reference, and it keeps the film’s political message from feeling truly impactful.
Also, like the previous Purge movies, this one has a few too many jump scares. This is to be expected given that this series is co-produced by Blumhouse Pictures, who specialize in horror movies, but the jump scares in this entry are poorly done. Not only is the timing off, but they occur in moments that do not make sense, such as in the prologue, where two of the main characters are seen sneaking across the border to the United States. The jump scares in this series are usually limited to when the “purging” takes place, but in this scene, there is no indication that there is any threat of any kind waiting for them. In fact, most of this scene feels less like one from a Purge movie and more like one from a lesser Conjuring film, also produced by Blumhouse. Perhaps this would have benefitted from having James Wan as a director, for he would have probably knocked it right out of the park.
As far as the other filmmaking aspects are concerned (acting, violence, cinematography, etc.), they are as adequate as any other film in the Purge series. The film does get the job done, but aside from the previously mentioned skinhead character, there is not much that happens in the film to match the possibilities that the premise suggests. Sad, but fitting for the Purge series as a whole.
So where does this film rank amongst the other entries in the series? It is certainly not as boring and flimsy as the first Purge film (not to be confused with the 4th film and prequel, titled The First Purge), but doesn’t quite have the same interesting characters as Anarchy and Election Year. So somewhere in the middle along with The First Purge. The marketing has stated that this will be the final entry in Purge series, but as the premise, as well as the ending, suggest, it is never truly over. So audiences can more or less anticipate another Purge movie in the coming years. As long as there is corruption, there will always be anger…and sequels.