James Jay Edwards

The Forever Purge Shows Another Side of the Franchise

(The Forever Purge, courtesy Universal Pictures)

James Jay Edwards reviews The Forever Purge, an action horror film written by series creator James DeMonaco and directed by Everardo Gout. (Universal Pictures)

 

The Purge series has had a frustrating run. The concept of one lawless night is so intriguing, but by the end, the movies all devolve into typical shoot-’em-ups. And very little has changed with The Forever Purge.

The Forever Purge takes the concept of The Purge, where all laws (including murder) are suspended for 12 hours once a year, to a rural town on the Texas-Mexico border. Both the rich ranch owners and their immigrant workers hunker down for the night, and everything goes off pretty much like every other Purge.

 

(The Forever Purge, theatrical release poster, courtesy Universal Pictures)

Except one night is not enough for a rogue faction of “patriots” called the “Forever After” movement. These thugs decide to keep the Purge going the next morning after it has officially ended, and not even the police or the National Guard can stop them in their quest for a New America. Instead of “Survive the Night,” citizens are forced to just “Survive.”

Like all of the other entries into the series, franchise creator James DeMonaco penned the script for The Forever Purge. For the second movie in a row, however, he has turned the director role over to someone else, this time filmmaker Everardo Gout (Days of Grace). This change is noticeable since The Forever Purge has an entirely different feel from its predecessors. This The Purge movie is like a revisionist Western along the lines of Sicario or Hell or High Water. Only more lawless.

 

(The Forever Purge, courtesy Universal Pictures)

Of course, it’s still a The Purge movie, so the typical tropes are there, from the creepily innocent masks to the meathead pre-Purge prepping. The movie is also just as grisly and brutal as the others, but it loses something when the Purge continues into the daylight, and everything is out in the open. It just seems less threatening and more … standard. It comes off as more of a Spaghetti Western than a horror flick. And, while there are some inventive kills, it’s mostly just another shoot-’em-up.

At one point, The Forever Purge tries to make it all about a single villain, choosing to focus on one Purger who doesn’t even seem to be that high up in the ranks of the “Forever After” movement. This seems out of place for a franchise that usually hides its villains behind bandanas and masks. (Why the hell didn’t they do The Pandemic Purge?) Giving a face to the insurgents attempts to humanize a cause that is, frankly, inhumane. The villains are clearly the villains, but it feels like DeMonaco and Gout are trying to generate sympathy for the devil. And it’s confusing.

 

(The Forever Purge, courtesy Universal Pictures)

Typical of The Purge movies, The Forever Purge wears its political allegory on its sleeve. Its bold statements about immigration and racism are slightly hidden under the guise of action movie entertainment, but there’s no doubt who the heroes are and where DeMonaco’s loyalties lie. And by the time everyone realizes that insurrectionists are carrying The Purge on after it should legally stop, the “good people” of the country make a run for either Mexico or Canada (who have, incidentally, kindly opened their borders to the refugees). The irony of Americans fleeing their country to escape violence isn’t lost on anyone. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

The Purge movies have always been better in concept than in execution, and The Forever Purge is no different. It’s good for bloody violence, and it does get its political and social points across, but there’s nothing subtle about it. Someday, we will get an incredible movie from the franchise. But for now, we’ll have to settle for the over-the-top carnage of movies like The Forever Purge.

The Forever Purge is in theaters now.

 

 

Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.

 

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