America NEEDS the Purge. That’s what newscasters and radio hosts insist throughout the tiresome Purge franchise that now spans five films and a television series. We need it as a release for all of the hate and evil we keep pent up throughout the rest of the year. Need those 12 hours of “freedom” to unleash our inner predator before returning to a normal life of over do bills and screaming kids. It’s a dark and pessimistic idea to be sure; but, perhaps an idea interesting enough to produce at least one solid thriller. Unfortunately, The Purge franchise has failed to do that yet, and with their newest attempt, The Forever Purge, they are at their weakest.
The film feels like a video game adaptation, moving from one generic scene of violence to the next. Purge creator James DeMonaco returns to produce and write while handing the role of director over to Everardo Gout for his first big American blockbuster. DeMonaco has acted as screenwriter for all five of the Purge films, and it seems as though he has pumped this creative well dry. As a result, I found myself checking my watch periodically, flabbergasted that only a few minutes had passed and wondering how much longer the film would last.
There’s not an original character to be found within the film’s 1 hour and 43 minute runtime. Everybody is a caricature, an over simplified stereotype designed to portray the film’s main message: racism is bad. Well, it certainly is, and horror films have been known for crafting stories that tackle tough political and racial themes. But The Forever Purge does so with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the back of the head on Purge night. You don’t have to wonder who may be a racist bad guy, because he’ll likely have a swastika tattooed directly on his face.
There’s an art to creating tension. To creating fear. An uneasy build up of small moments of uncertainty that makes the audience worry that something terrible may happen. When done correctly a filmmaker can create a genuinely unnerving experience for the audience. Or they could throw cheaply placed jump scares at you and hope that’s good enough. The Forever Purge chooses the latter. There’s no denying that a well executed jump scare can be very effective; however, over reliance on loud noises and quick movements to startle viewers rarely is. The Forever Purge seems incapable, or unwilling, to craft any real tension, choosing instead to blast the music and jolt the camera hoping to catch you off guard. Sure, you may jump in your seat, clutch your chest and grumble under your breath, but there is no real sense of dread.
The acting is the worst we’ve seen from the franchise yet. Dull. Wooden. Whatever you want to call it, it’s just bad. Josh Lucas (Ford v Ferrari) and Will Patton (Remember the Titans) are the biggest names in the cast. They’re seasoned actors and their experience shows compared to their co-stars, but even Lucas doesn’t seem to be putting in much of an effort here. Lines are delivered like they’re in a 90’s toy commercial and emotions are portrayed like a weekday morning soap opera.
We can only hope that the film’s title, The Forever Purge, is wrong. The idea of enduring this franchise “forever” is more horrifying than any of the films have been. 3.5/10