“The Purge” franchise has become a staple of horror over the last decade spawning four films biannually and a short-lived TV series during the 2010s. Over that time the franchise has evolved from a home invasion thriller to a more subtextual action horror series all focused on a dystopian future where The New Founding Fathers of America have set up a single day each year where crime is legal for 12 continuous hours. Each new entry has doubled down on thematically tackling the sins of American society and the degrading state of the once-great nation. All of that comes to a head in the allegedly final film in the franchise, “The Forever Purge” which sees the annual crime night return to America following the events of “The Purge: Election Year” and this time the chaos erupts nationwide as Americans finally decide that a single night of rage and crime is not enough. For a series that has built itself on being outwardly provocative and inspired by the state of the country around the time of each individual release, “The Forever Purge” feels like the most unapologetic examination so far of a nation that has lost its sense of morality and identity no matter what which side of politics you choose to support.
Let me set one thing straight though, “The Forever Purge” is no work of art. Like all the other movies in this franchise this blood-soaked sequel throws subtlety and nuance out the window and goes all in with its subtext focusing on the many divisions that exist in American society as the Purge goes out of control beyond its previous one-night limit. This time the New Founding Father’s aren’t the main enemy. In fact, we see as the film progresses that they have lost control and that their precious night of hate and terror has destroyed the nation they wanted so much to save, a not-so-veiled examination of the potential destruction modern politicians of any party may be causing to American society in the real world. As the world goes to hell, we follow a group of survivors comprised of well-off ranch family Dylan (Josh Lucas), Harper (Leven Ramblin), Emma (Cassidy Freeman), and Caleb (Will Patton) and their Mexican immigrant employees Juan (Tenoch Huerta) and his wife Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and T.T. (Alejandro Edda) as they race to the Mexican border to find refuge from the ever-expanding carnage. We see the world around them self-destructing in the process with new enemies of both the liberal and conservative variety standing in their way.
That to me is what makes “The Forever Purge” the most effective and disturbing entry in the series since the original film, which itself focused less on subtext and more on the home invasion concept although the idea of the Purge being a night for racists to justify their hatred was still a big part of that movie’s plot. This time around the franchise simply gives up on all hope for America exposing the hatred that exists on all angles of the spectrum from an immigrant seeking revenge against his rich boss to a white supremacist believing that any non-white American has created impurity in America. The idea is exposing a sad truth in America today, that hatred more than compassion drives our perspectives and that the people who inspire that hatred, the politicians at the top and in the movie’s case the only one’s safe from the carnage, are using that division to turn everyone against each other and control the country as they see fit. “The Forever Purge” never hides its intention which I can’t help but respect to an extent especially since the franchise proper has rarely ever held back with its themes. This whole franchise has been built on the concept of holding a mirror to America and presenting us with harsh realities superimposed over an unrealistic scenario, something we never believe can happen but that warns us of the potential. However, with “The Forever Purge”, released in a time when America is more divided than maybe even the Civil War era to some degree, the self-destruction feels much more plausible. In many ways “The Forever Purge” is the “Purge” movie we’ve wanted for years pulling out all the stops to give us what is expected (although unlikely) to be realistically the most logical conclusion this franchise could have ever had.
But does that make it good? Well, there were a lot of things I liked about “The Forever Purge” but I wouldn’t call it a great movie. Just one of the best in a middle-of-the-road franchise. It does provide some interesting looks at racial relations in American even admitting the debate is much more complicated than just being literally or figuratively black or white. The hypocrisy of liberals turning into the monsters they hate. The blind superiority of conservatives who love their country but only by their standards. The people in between who think that everyone should just leave each other alone and how that represents a bleak reality of society if we can’t coexist. It’s all here granted a lot of that subtext is hidden beneath the more aggressive ideas when it honestly should have been the other way around. This movie is built to piss people off, which can sometimes overshadow the true horror hidden beneath, that for the first time the idea of a society losing its mind out of anger and frustration seems genuinely possible and that we, as a country, are destroying ourselves by our own hands through our blatant hypocrisies. From a structural and production perspective “The Forever Purge” also has an identity problem with its genre and story shifting between jump-scare horror, post-apocalyptic action and neo-western, rarely finding a proper blend of any of these identities which can be jarring as it evolves over time. “The Forever Purge” isn’t focused on being high art, it’s main focus and purpose is bringing everything to a head and presenting the most over-the-top result this franchise could have ever provided and to that end I think it succeeds. However, it does so with the feel of a B-movie and the bluntness of an exploitation film which does, in some ways, betray its better qualities and will likely change no minds because, as we’ve seen through many films of the past, people don’t respond well to being told they’re bad. They have to come to that conclusion on their own and “The Forever Purge” leaves no room for self-examination. It holds the mirror and says, “this is what we’ve become” rather than allowing viewers to feel truly frightened that this is where we’re headed. That’s a tactic that is all-too-often hit or miss for any genre.
“The Forever Purge” is a fun, bloody and insane conclusion (for now) to a franchise that became a staple of one of the most tumultuous decades in recent American history. It feels timelier than any other films in the franchise and is also the most in-your-face entry basically saying if we continue on the path we have chosen as a country the hate and division will boil over into something we can no longer control. That’s probably one of the most complete and disturbing messages this franchise has brought to the table so far, I just wish it did so in a better constructed and more nuanced final product. Calling this one of the best movies in the franchise might not seem like much given that “The Purge” has never really been an example of artistic merit, but from an entertainment perspective it’s so much fun to see this series finally reach what many people have long believed was the inevitable final reality a single night of crime would evolve into. I’ll also say that it was the first movie in the series to truly leave me disturbed by the plausibility and underlying origins of its concept which is something I’ve always appreciated about this genre. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but I’ll be damned if this movie wasn’t a pulse-pounding good time that wears its provocative ideas like a badge. This is what I always wanted from a “Purge” movie and for me that makes it a movie worth recommending.