The Purge franchise has always been a tightly contained entity, often to its own detriment. Spanning four films and a television series, creator James DeMonaco—who has written all of the works but only directed the first three films—has rarely drifted from his proven formula for success. He introduces the characters, makes them endure a 12-hour nightmare of cool masks and elaborate traps, and coats it all in a not-so-subtle political sheen. While it is the social commentary that is the most chilling aspect of these films, they have always leaned heavily on the macabre deaths. Thankfully, as the tagline for The Forever Purge boasts, the rules are broken for the fifth addition to the franchise.
This breaking of rules not only applies to the racially charged world that the characters exist in, but the film’s construction itself. Taking over the director’s chair this time around, Everardo Gout does not waste time with the Saw-like deathtraps that were prevalent in the other films. Outside of one incident involving demonic bunny costumes, which feels more like a checking of Purge trope boxes than anything else, Gout grounds his thriller in the horrors that hit closer to home. If the previous films held a mirror up to the racial tensions and inequalities that permeate America, then The Forever Purge shows the consequences of governments who recklessly pedal in hateful ideologies for their own political gains.
Using the political rhetoric surrounding America’s southern border crisis as an entry point, The Forever Purge follows Mexican couple, Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta), who now live in Texas after fleeing the cartels in their homeland. While Adela is working towards assimilating into the American culture, even if it means no longer speaking Spanish in public, Juan is not as willing to forget his roots just yet. It does not help that he works as a ranch hand for the wealthy Tucker family. While the patriarch of the clan, Caleb (Will Patton), values Juan’s work ethic and treats him with respect, the same cannot be said for Caleb’s son Dylan (Josh Lucas). Carrying a distain for immigrants, fuelled further when Juan upstages him on the job, Dylan believes that people should stick with their own kind. The mere thought of his pregnant wife, Emma (Cassidy Freeman), even considering hiring a Hispanic nanny, for fear of the kid learning to speak Spanish, enrages him.
Unfortunately for Dylan, the annual Purge event has a way of bringing people together in times of crisis. This year’s event takes an unexpected turn when an online movement known as “Ever After” decides that the Purge will not cease at daybreak as required by law. Instead, in organized assaults that surprise both civilians and authorities the morning after Purge Night, the “Ever After” followers begin their bloody quest to cleanse America of immigrants and the wealthy 1% via a never-ending Purge.
While Gout’s film does not delve too deeply into who started the “Ever After” movement, it is clear its disciples have all been radicalize by hate. Though The Forever Purge was filmed well before the January 6th Capital Riot in America, one cannot help but see the parallels between the film’s rage-filled, divided society and our own. Of course, being a Purge film, the symbolism is hard to miss. At times one might think they are watching a dystopian version of Paul Haggis’ Crash the way the film openly telegraphs its commentary regarding race, power, and politics. Everything from America’s obsession with guns to migrant labour to racial profiling by police to the decades of injustice that Indigenous communities have endured are mentioned here.
Although the heavy-handed messaging will induce some eye-rolls, and some of the characters play into the same racial stereotypes the film is denouncing, there is no denying that the franchise has found its sweet spot. Gout includes plenty of thrills to satisfy loyal fans of the franchise, while using Adela and Juan to humanize the horror they endure. Despite hinting early on that Adela is a butt-kicking badass in her own right, one is never quite sure how she and Juan will fair over the course of the film. Danger is literally lurking around every corner, as Gout nicely captures in an alley sequence constructed to look like one continuous tracking shot. Though Gout throws in a few cinematic nods to other dystopian films such as Mad Max: Fury Road and Children of Men, The Forever Purge feels primarily influenced by the Trump era of American politics. There is even a villain who refers to his female partner as “mother,” a cheeky dig at Trump’s former Vice President.
Just as Trumpism eroded the Republican party from the inside out, Gout’s film notes how unchecked hate can even destroy the pillars of the systems it was used to uphold. While the politics of this cinematic universe have always been messy, The Forever Purge is the best Purge film yet. A thriller that understands one needs to break the rules of a system if one hopes to build a better version.