The Forever Purge

The Forever Purge ★★★

The Purge as a series has always frustrated me as I find it to be a fascinating concept worthy of genre film glory that never seems to be able reach heights further than something Bruno Mattei could have made riffing on John Carpenter. They’re fine being exploitation films and their social commentary is as blunt as it was in the heyday of this kind of movie. Maybe even more so, as the characters in James DeMonaco’s scripts often blurt themes or ideas aloud. The social commentary itself is almost moot as the series is constantly condemning the violent actions Americans are capable of yet it, in and of itself, is a violent product made to be enjoyed without an ounce of self awareness. It’s frequently so cartoonish that it never reaches the unsettling nature it aims for. That, and the fact that I just never quite bought into the concept as anything overly incisive or plausible, as it was so broad and failed to link its doomsday scenario with any real world social issues. 

Well, maybe the problem was never The Purge series itself, just the moment of their releases. Because after the events of January 6th, 2021, the concept of the Purge is no longer outlandish to me. The Capitol attack showed once and for all that homegrown political and cultural extremism is one of the most serious threats to the safety of Americans. It showed that there is an alarmingly large number of people brainwashed by hatred and propaganda who would gladly throw the democracy and laws they purport to uphold away the second they don’t get what they want. And with the Republican Party all but fully transformed into the cult of Donald Trump, America’s right wing politicians have realized the kind of dangerous polarization and fearmongering that persuaded those purgers is their mealticket to staying in power and there is no immorality they will not support so long as it gets enough of one group to vote for them. If extremists wanted an annual Purge and our politicians thought there were enough of them to win an election on then I truly believe they would support it.

So it’s not that this latest installment, The Forever Purge, course corrects every last flaw with this franchise, but it has the benefit of releasing into a world I think is finally ready for it, for better or worse. The scenario this film depicts, of America in its entirety under siege by radicals determined to massacre all those who defy their political doctrine or who don’t look like them, is something I’ve genuinely been scared of and has haunted my head and riddled me with anxiety for a long time now. And, in the true spirit of the horror genre, The Forever Purge gave me an outlet to experience these fears through and survive them. Watching a radicalized militia taking to the streets to hunt brown skinned individuals is something that scared and disturbed me worse than anything I’ve seen from a Hollywood horror picture in a long time simply because I know there are many people in America for whom that is a desire. Plus, Everardo Gout proves a much more cinematic director than his predecessors, weaving some genuinely tense moments and DeMonaco’s script is actually serviceable in how it genuinely builds its characters and gets you to care about them. 

Now, it can’t be denied that all of this is exploitation. Exploitation of current events, of minority suffering, of real danger and tragedy, etc. If you wanted to call it a liberal nightmare fantasy, you certainly can. While some may find catharsis in watching oppressed undocumented immigrants finally take revenge upon those who dehumanize them, it is inarguable that simply turns such a complicated moral and social issue into a trivial hero vs villain narrative. The Forever Purge, as always, is highly problematic, even if I think it does get some mileage out of having a clearer picture of who’d be in the right and wrong of the series’ concept. But, maybe the point of these movies was always the point of the concept itself: having one moment in time to let it all out before returning to rationality. Maybe there is a place for movies this over the top in their perspectives and hopelessly morally uncomplicated in their attitudes because sometimes our perspectives and attitudes are exactly the same. Maybe we need something to play to our basest emotions and get it all out before we can use our brains to form a clearer and more acceptable solution. And if nothing else, I thank this movie for giving me an outlet for my fears, no matter how problematic or hypocritical they are. 

I’d say I still want to see an serious, artsy version of a Purge movie. But I finally got that.

It’s called New Order

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