Director: Everardo Gout
Notable Cast: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Will Patton, Cassidy Freeman, Veronica Falcon, Leven Rambin, Gregory Zaragoza
When the Saw franchise ran with the marketing gimmick of “if it’s Halloween, it’s Saw” because they essentially staked their claim to the holiday season before being dethroned by Paranormal Activity, they knew their drawing power. In the same vein, it is another Independence Day and that means it’s time for a bit of Purge. For this fifth installment, The Forever Purge, the series moves locales, adds a new voice in director Everardo Gout, and continues to embed heavy-handed social commentary within the confines of a genre exploitation heavy dose of street level chaos. As most reviewers seem to note, yes, The Forever Purge is quite a bit more of the same, but it injects just the right amount of fresh blood into the mix - making for another provocatively entertaining slab of genre cinema.
After the political tables have turned once again, The Purge, America’s 12 hour “holiday of freedom” where all illegal activities are made legal, is once again reinstated. However, for a smaller town in Texas near El Paso, the violence, hatred, and bigotry cannot be contained. A Mexican couple must save their friends and neighbors as a rogue group of Ever After Purgers declare a cleansing of the country and continue the Purge long after it was supposed to end. The couple, along with some ranchers and friends, attempt to make a run for the Mexican border for safety.
At the foundational layer of The Forever Purge, the formula remains intact with a tight fist. The structure of the film, where we are introduced to the basic concept of the film, followed by 15 to 20 minutes of character build, the Purge violence, our protagonists on the run, the introduction of a rebellion to the Purge, and so on, remains intact. For those who are familiar with the Purge films, The Forever Purge is a bit like putting on some well-worn, but comfortable pants. It’s not the most refreshingly unique experience, but it’s one that certainly fits.
However, it is in the details that The Forever Purge finds its voice. Yes, the Purge violence is mostly relegated to murder of various degrees, but this time it’s in the daylight and harsh yellow tones of a cinematic Texas. Yes, we have a group of diverse protagonists, but this time it’s Hispanic workers and rich ranchers that must work together and come to put aside their differences. Yes, there is a conspiracy element to it, but this time it’s an extremist pro-Purge group that aims to use their access to weapons and Purge paraphernalia to try and overthrow the system that allowed them that ability. It’s the latter portion that seems to be the timeliest, considering the events that happened post-election as a group of rioters stormed the US capital. A fact that seems strangely prophetic considering The Forever Purge was supposed to be released the year before those events became a reality. On top of that, themes about war torn countries, refugees, immigration, and reversal of roles certainly runs rampant throughout. It’s through these film specific details that The Forever Purge hits its marks.
While returning writer James DeMonaco certainly sticks to his guns here, word play fully intended for the doubters out there, it’s director Everardo Gout that seems to be bringing in most of the voice and fresh tones of the film. A veteran of some great cinematic TV, he brings quite a bit of pizzazz as a director here. Long takes of our protagonists stalking through the city of El Paso at night, stark and brutal action, and just enough of a sense of tension and dread added to the mix to make sure that fans have trouble deciding if this film fits in the horror or action categories (why not both?) are all present and accounted for. However, it’s his treatment of the social commentary - which is rarely subtext - that feels like he has an understanding of the themes and intentions of the film in a way that pushes the subject matter.
It is part of the charm of this series that it aims to strike its audience like a baseball bat full of casing nails. The Forever Purge fulfills that promise and then some. The performances are solid enough, particularly from Ana de la Reguera and Tenoch Huerta who own the film as the lead couple, and the action and tension are palpable for the series. If the series continues to give fresh directorial voices (not just Gout, but McMurray for The First Purge) a voice to bluntly state their social fears, then this film series should continue forever as the title indicates. The Forever Purge might be a lot of the same, but it’s a formula that packs a punch for audiences with plenty of overtly abrasive things to say.