As the summer movie season goes into full swing for the first time in 2 years, a modern tradition returns this 4th of July weekend. This could, of course, only be a new Purge movie from Blumhouse. Originally meant to release last year, The Forever Purge finally sees the light of day as the 5th and supposed last entry in the franchise. The reopening of theaters has been extremely kind to long-awaited titles such as F9: The Fast Saga and A Quiet Place Part II, and the success of the latter proved just how hungry moviegoers were for a good Horror film on the big screen. Well, if anyone was looking forward to another Purge movie then they’re in luck, for this is perhaps the most engaging sequel, but it’s certainly not going to draw in new fans this late in the game.
As the title suggests, The Forever Purge plays with the simple idea of “What if the Purge never ended?” Certainly not a game-changing premise, as any fan could have seen this idea coming a mile away. Though what gives life to this concept isn’t so predictable, and is what definitely gives this sequel its edge. Written by series creator James DeMonaco, The Forever Purge opens with a Mexican couple crossing the border into Texas, not only necessarily looking for a better life, but looking for a new kind of refuge from a shady past. They pursue the American Dream… in a dystopian landscape where the most lauded day of the year is the one when crime is legal for 12 hours.
Fast forward to a few months later, and this couple is getting ready for their first Purge. They haven’t fully assimilated yet but sure are trying in their own ways. Their fellow Mexican Americans tell them that it’s normal and that the rest of the peaceful year makes up for just one stressful night. They spend their first Purge locked up safely in a crummy warehouse full of other Latinos and middle to lower class citizens, as paid armed guards protect them. A major contrast from high class white Texans who are seen spending the Purge safely at their fancy ranches with advanced security systems. This kind of visual storytelling is what first tells the viewer that, maybe, they’re not in for just another low-grade Horror movie. Just maybe, they’re in for something stronger. And these signals only get amplified when the Purge refuses to end.
All across the country, thousands of Americans have decided that the sirens will no longer dictate the end of the Purge. They take it into their own hands to keep purging across the country in an effort to overthrow the upper class that use the Purge as means to their own end. Again, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking, and kind of funny that it took 5 movies to finally get to this point, but these are not the real threats behind The Forever Purge. Among the chaos, a faction of neo-nazis have organized to purge the American soil of those who don’t “belong.” If the country is getting overthrown, might as well make a race war out of it? This is a far more interesting angle, but when these racists use phrases like “Make America Pure Again“, the film shows its true potential.
In case it wasn’t obvious, the film’s villains are a not so fantasized version of MAGA. Now, anyone who thinks the Purge franchise just went “woke” probably hasn’t actually seen these movies, as they’ve been steeped in political and social allegories since the very beginning. The issue here isn’t one with being highly topical, it’s the fact that the film doesn’t really bother to scratch the surface when playing with these heavy themes. People aren’t suppose to go in expecting next-level commentary – is it a Purge movie after all – but for a series this deep with a handful of weak entries at its back, it surely would have only done this story favors by diving deeper. If they’re going to use these big guns, why not go all the way in?
Instead, the film opts for more of a B movie aesthetic. Fans will recognize this as a change of pace from the previous Purge films, and it mostly works here. Truly, one can have a scary B movie filled with politics, and have it be just as great. However, The Forever Purge‘s visual pros aren’t enough to outweigh the cons of its script. What is good comes from director Everardo Gout. He clearly has a lot of fun with more handheld and “up in your face” camera movements, further making this entry feel distinct in the franchise. There are a handful of exciting kills that benefit from this touch. If anything, fans will be able to appreciate the effort in making this sequel feel and look unlike any of the others.
Praise must also be given to the leading duo, Ana de la Reguera and Tenoch Huerta, who along with the director, will at least keep viewers in their seats from start to finish. Their collaboration evidently contributes to the film’s saving grace, in that within all the sensitive allegories and messaging, the Latin perspective comes off as authentic. A high-thrill Horror movie about racists wanting to kill brown people could have easily slipped into irredeemable territory, and Hollywood has been guilty of this many times before. Producer Jason Blum says, “I didn’t say we had to have a Mexican director, but I said I think the movie is going to be a lot better if we can find a Mexican director.” And he wasn’t wrong, for the Mexican story at the center of The Forever Purge is portrayed in a genuine light, rarely falling into unwelcome stereotypes.
Still, The Forever Purge skips across big ideas, pretending it’s smarter than what it really is. There’s just so much more that one wishes the film had the courage to delve into, and by not doing so, some questionable decisions are left unresolved. It’s a can of worms that the film wants to pretend doesn’t exist as it rushes to the blood-soaked finale. One can feel a tug of war between the film wanting to try something new or thinking that it might be too alienating. Yet, as safe as it chooses to be at times, this makes for a more entertaining experience than this franchise has seen lately. Thanks to its director and cast, this series might have not gone out entirely in vain.