Just when you thought it was safe to skip that night where America shuts up shop and becomes a kill zone for people dressed like thrift store Batman villains as they rampage for twelve hours – Purge night is back.
Blumhouse’s franchise of nihilistic dystopia and sledgehammer politics returns for it’s fifth installment as the series that had an up turn in quality after The First Purge made the interesting choice of focusing on the black experience of what an event would mean to a particular community. This time, wisely keeping with a simular theme, the filmmakers have decided to aim their social scope onto the plight of mexican immigrants and shift the movies to Texas – you know, the state you don’t mess with?
As the themes of these horror/thrillers grow steadily ever more closer to the bone with it’s view of an America going progressively mad instead of simply being more progressive, can this latest explosion of masks, murder and ‘Murica find that sweet spot between entertainment and social commentary?
It’s stressful times for the people in the alternate America. Not only have the New Founding Fathers Of America somehow been voted back into power after losing hold of their seat of power in the third movie, but once again they are planning to resurrect the Purge, a night where all crime is legal for twelve long hours in order for the country’s citizens can release all that pent up tension caused by living their lives under the heel of a boot. Into this America come Adela and Juan, a couple who have made their way into the country illegally but who manage to find employment – Adela at chicken plant and Juan at a local ranch – with bosses who understand their plight, but months into them making a new life for themselves, their first Purge hits.
Escaping the night unscathed, everyone attempts to go back to work in the bloody aftermath, but something is different this time – a bunch of extremists have decided that this year, the Purge simply won’t end, like ever and organised and heavily armed gangs are now patrolling the streets in an attempt to “take America back”.
While Juan saves the wealthy family he works for from Purgers, Adela finds herself arrested under suspicion of Purging out of hours and so the couple has to try and reunite and get their small band to the Mexican border which has been opened unconditionally for the next six hours due to the violence spreading across the entire country. Can these survivors set aside their differences to get the fuck out of dodge in time as the entire nation rips itself a brand new a-hole or will they just become more victims of the Forever Purge.
While The Purge franchise has obviously always had it’s eye on social concerns, this new tactic of narrowing things down to one particular community in particular instead of having a cross section of society has had somewhat of a revitalizing effect on the series. 2018’s The First Purge saw the titular event bench tested in the predominantly black neighbourhoods of Staten Island and while the usual action beats laid out by the other movies were still in effect, the narrowing of focus actually helped increase the movie’s message which sometimes gets lost in the clatter of gunfire. The Forever Purge takes this idea and refines a lot of things wrong with the franchise in general with surprisingly effective results to produce probably the second best Purge to date.
Helped inordinately by the events of the past year that immediately made the franchise worryingly seem less far fetched than we hoped, series creator James DeMonico has sanded down some of the more absurd trademarks of the movies to something a bit more palatable. Mostly gone are the overacting maniacal loonies that apparently can manage to keep that shit under wraps until that fucking siren blared and in their place are endless amounts of tooled up militants who generally believe they are doing what’s best – which is way more scary. Righteous, self proclaimed patriots attempting to broach the wealth barrier by causing chaos in the name of their equally rich government that’s given them an opening is a motive that is unsettlingly believable as it is hypocritical and it works far better than, say, portraying the NFFA as pasty caricatures.
Admittedly, the white, wealthy ranchers are fairly stock characters (Josh Lucas bigoted son, in particular goes through the motions) but injecting some much needed bad-assery on the side of the good guys is Ana de la Reguera, who’s gun toting action chops from Army Of The Dead are well served here and Narcos: Mexico’s Tenoch Huerta who gives the strong, silent Juan a proud determination as they fight their way back to the county they’d only just snuck out from months prior and they add the same amount of wallop as Frank Grillo brought to the second movie.
Director and Purge newcomer Everardo Valerio Gout uses the change of landscape and time of day (a Purge movie set in the daytime?) to mostly overhaul the typical visual language we’re used to and the effect means that events don’t feel quite as episodic as they have in the past and the action is well plotted and easy to follow.
Possibly the best aspect of The Forever Purge, however, is how it moves the world on that Blumhouse has built over the last ten years (!) and where any future Purges could possibly go. Certainly it’s the first time I can remember that the promise of another movie in this franchise would be something I would mull over with genuine interest as opposed to begrudging acceptance – although I fully except it’ll most likely involve another group of minorities running around another urban war zone.
Still following the basic set up of previous Purges, this latest bout of socially conscious chaos stands out more than most thanks to some smart fine tuning, a noticable rise in stakes and a lead couple that is proactive, resourceful and pretty fucking handy with an automatic weapon.
Watch this Purge surge…