At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Forever Purge with Special Guest Reviewer C.J. Maxwell

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Dystopian Action Horror/ Stars: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Alejandro Edda, Will Patton, Veronica Falcón, Will Brittain, Sammi Rotibi, Zahn McClarnon, Jeffrey Doornbos, Susie Abromeit; Voice of: Cindy Robinson/ Runtime: 103 minutes

We think it can safely be said at the start of this review there is not exactly the most beloved history in the world when it comes to a horror franchise making it to its 5th installment and that 5th installment turning out for the better. I mean we could be wrong, but we’re pretty darn sure that there aren’t that many people out there who watch Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Saw V, or hell even Leprechaun in the Hood and view those movies as the say all, end all of their respective franchises. Even when taking that into account though, we think it can be said that The Forever Purge really is something of a novelty in that it actually is both not that bad of a 5th installment and also one of the better Purge films. Indeed while typically quite a few frightening series have been milked for all that they are worth by this point in time, this one actually delivers both a riveting if slightly underwhelming entry in this series as well as, should they choose to permit it, a frighteningly equal parts potent, just plain dark, and nihilistic like nobody’s business hopefully culmination to this terrifyingly realistic series of films.

The plot is as follows: So previously on The Purge….if you’ve been following this series with a diehard devotion (or just rewatched the previous films before seeing this one) then you’ll remember that Election Year concludes with Senator Roan winning the presidency and, upon taking the oath of office, kicks the New Founding Fathers completely and utterly out of all political affairs in the United States and also completely and utterly does away with The Purge. Unfortunately, this film takes place after her administration where we learn that, since her time in office, those sneaky and slimy NFFA blokes have managed to find a way back into political prominence and the infamous 12-hour duration of time where any and all crime is legal has been revamped and reintroduced to the populace. It is this revamped Purge that is where we are introduced to our main heroes in this by the names of Adela and Juan as they make their way to America in the hope that they’ll be able to get away from a vicious drug cartel. From there we see that a few months on they have been able to carve out new lives for themselves in Texas. Yet whilst there are those who have their backs like a down to earth and respectful of everyone in his employ rancher by the name of Caleb Tucker, there are also some like Caleb’s boy Dylan who aren’t exactly subtle about how much he’s not fond of them. Then things start going haywire as the once again yearly Purge gets underway and, as par for the course, people decide to let their inner murdering, thieving, and whathaveyou scumbag emerge since they’re once again legally entitled. Along with that we see others decide to band together to make sure people are kept safe, but of course the only time anyone feels any degree of “safe” is when the Purge is once again over and they feel like they can once again go about their normal, day to day lives. Or at least that used to be the case. That’s because instead of just being placated by a once a year purge, a significant in size radical extremist group has set in motion a systematic plan to keep the mayhem going forever and thus incite an everlasting, perpetual, or, to use a very familiar almost as if it’s the title of the film concept, a Forever Purge if you will. To that end, we see that this results in Adela, Juan, Dylan, and their friends and family to converge in a desperate battle for survival which will see our group of heroes try and get to the Mexican border and get the heck out of the country before its too late.

Now even though the other movies in this series have all been in different places and, by and large, about different people, there has always been at least one thing that tied them all together. That of course being that all of the previous films are all by and large taking place on the titular night of murderous chaos. This therefore is one of the most riveting components of this film and this is because of how it significantly deviates from that. Indeed much in the same way that the heroes in a film about an old school vampire film desperately try to make it to daybreak, the earlier movies in this series have given the characters a sort of cheat code in that they know this is only going to last for the next 12 hours. Yet in this one, the “OG Purge” is officially done and over with in the first half hour or so thus when things terrifyingly keep on going, you really have no idea of what to expect. Thus it is from this unexpected wrinkle that we get an astonishingly riveting narrative that not only gives us some intriguing new developments in this world, but we also get a mood that is consistently suspenseful and personal. Now, besides its issues when looking at it in terms of its narrative, The First Purge was also lacking when it came to scares. Thankfully, this movie is able to make amends for that easily. Sure it doesn’t seem like that at the beginning due to the prologue really relying heavily on lesser-grade jump scares, but thankfully the rest of the film is better than that. Indeed it turns out that crazy people who have problems keeping their psychotic ways tethered to just a dozen hours a year are infinitely more terrifying than the people who are able to do so. A fact that this movie shows off courtesy of a group of some truly unnerving menaces wearing some very horrifying facial coverings for our heroes to have to combat throughout the course of the film.

It’s also worth pointing out that when it comes to the commentary that this movie has to offer this one actually does tend to get fairly frightening in how it seems like this one, more than the others, actually seems to understand not only where things are at in the real world, but also where we might be headed as well. It also doesn’t hurt that the cast of characters in this are quite riveting to follow even they are by and large functioning as nothing more than archetypes we’ve seen a million times before in movies like this with particular regard to the work done in this by the always wonderful Will Patton and Josh Lucas as Caleb and Dylan Tucker respectively even if one has wayyy less screen time than an actor of his talents deserved. That being said, much in the same vein as Frank Grillo became a franchise icon with his work in the 2nd and 3rd installments respectively, we can safely say that this franchise has a new bad ass in the form of Ana de la Reguera’s Adela. Indeed not only is her character a novel and riveting heroine for this franchise, but she also has quite the intriguing backstory that we are only given hints of and which we think deserves its own spin-off film.

All in all we think it can be said that because the core narrative of this distinct franchise is as riveting and strong as it is, the most intriguing element in its growth has been the fact that every follow-up in this, by and large, has chosen to place its focus on a different group of people on this one night and the various decisions that they make in order to survive amidst the chaos. Yet this was a concept that this franchise had to discover through some serious growing pains. Growing pains incidentally that took the form of the fact that the home invasion at the heart of the first movie just plain and simply doesn’t permit for a truly genuine analysis of the thematic concepts at the heart of the overall narrative hook. Thankfully, film scribe/helmer James DeMonaco made some delightfully intelligent decisions with the next two slices of cinematic pie in this series thus giving us the gonzo Purge: Anarchy that took us out into the streets and showed us just how wild Purge Night in America can be and the commentary-tinged Purge: Election Year which started to give this series a frighteningly relevant political bent to the whole proceedings. Of course the latest installment before this, 2018’s The First Purge, wasn’t exactly on the same level as its immediate predecessors and didn’t exactly take advantage fully of the chance to give the movie goer a different point of view on this chaos-fueled and mayhem-run world. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long in terms of installments for the franchise to enter course correct mode. Indeed The Forever Purge is one follow-up that not only does a wonderful job of contributing more complexity to the concepts that are at the heart of this series thus in the process raising the potential for some novel and quite intriguing discussion to be had, but it also manages to just be one heck of a cinematic ride when taking into account the state of the world nowadays is just as dark if not more so than any other entry in this series has been to date even in the face of its characters being by and large mostly archetypes and the lightning department seriously needing more money than what they got in certain points. On a scale of 1-5 we give The Forever Purge a solid 3 out of 5.