‘The Forever Purge’ is a Modern Dystopian Nightmare

1 Comment

The Forever Purge (CREDIT: Universal Pictures/YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rabin, Alejandro Edda, Will Patton

Director: Evarardo Gout

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: R for Sniveling, Racist, Terroristic Violence

Release Date: July 2, 2021 (Theaters)

I thought we were done with The Purge. With the 2016 release of The Purge: Election Year, a new administration ascended and officially ended the annual night of state-sanctioned lawlessness. But horror franchises never say die, so this one went the prequel route with 2018’s The First Purge. There was also a two-season TV series that debuted that same year, which I watched one episode of. As far as I know, it has little, if any, bearing on the movies. Now all the legal crime’s been reinstated in The Forever Purge, and as the title indicates, there’s a contingent intent on it never ending. But after such a satisfying conclusion in Election Year, that’s such a depressing prospect to me. So pretty much the only way I can find The Forever Purge palatable is by pretending that it’s essentially a standalone entry, so that’s what I’ll do.

It’s not too hard to pull off this mental trick, as Forever carries over no characters from any previous entries (save for the ever-present specter of the “New Founding Fathers of America” regime that conceived of The Purge in the first place). This time around we’re in Texas, with a white ranch-owning family and a Mexican family that works on the ranch as our requisite set of people who would prefer to barricade themselves up during this here Purge, thank you very much. (Josh Lucas’s Dylan Tucker, the biggest jackass of these clans, has the most selfish reason for opposing this ritual, as he declares, “I hate the damn Purge. It’s just hard to be social on that night.”) Then there are the truly demented forever purgers, among the most thoroughly evil caricatures of any good grindhouse flick.

After living through a pandemic and its attendant heightened anxiety, I’m not exactly in the mood for the 24/7 terror promised by The Forever Purge. Hell, I’m not usually ever in the mood for that, but at least when the earlier Purge editions came out, they felt much further removed from reality than they do now. But insurrectionists demanding that the government make their already-extreme policies even more extreme is very much a part of recent American history. At least The Forever Purge allows for some catharsis by making it very clear that it is on the side of the systemically downtrodden. This has always been an “eat the rich” franchise, and this time that’s clearer than ever, what with the villains aiming to essentially start a race war. In conclusion, I can’t remember any other mainstream film in my lifetime basically saying “Maybe Mexico is a better place to live than America right now,” so I have to applaud The Forever Purge‘s gumption and conviction.

The Forever Purge is Recommended If You Like: Revisiting a nightmare world

Grade: 3 out of 5 Purges

This Is a Movie Review: Stuck in a Teenage Girl’s Bedroom, ‘Everything, Everything’ Has a Teenage Heart and Soul

1 Comment

This review was originally published on News Cult in May 2017.

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera, Morgan Saylor

Director: Stella Meghie

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Artfully Shot Sickness and Tastefully Shot Teen Sensuality

Release Date: May 19, 2017

Everything, Everything is a teen romance fantasy in a vacuum. The good and bad thing about vacuums is that they keep everything out – in this case, both the distractions that can get in the way of a genuine connection but also the context and experiences that deepen that connection.

18-year-old Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg) has been housebound nearly her entire life, due to her Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a disorder that leaves her deathly vulnerable to all the infections of the outside world. She has managed to carve out a decently satisfying routine in her domestic prison: writing mini reviews of all the books she reads, assembling dioramas of the places she cannot visit, and having game/movie nights with her mom (phonetic Scrabble and Moonstruck are a couple of favorites). But when prototypically cute boy with a hardscrabble home life Olly (Nick Robinson) moves in next door, her desire to break free can no longer be so easily contained.

This is the type of movie in which a character 100% earnestly says, “I loved you before I knew you” (to which the response in real life should always be, “That is not how love works”). But when it comes to the outsize emotions of adolescence, such a sentiment is understandable and can often make for thrilling stories about first love. Everything, Everything wants to be that type of story, and the physical entrapment in its premise is a potent formula for a big tension release, but the trouble is, the chemistry between Stenberg and Robinson is supposed to be self-evident, but in fact it never really clicks.

The lack of passion is a shame, because the design around the lovers is striking. Their conversations are mostly through text or online messaging, but they are sometimes presented as taking place in life-size versions of Maddy’s dioramas – a lovingly designed diner or library occupied just by them, but in which they dance around each other’s orbit, never really in the same spot, representing both the effort to protect Maddy and their emotional distance. When the two are finally allowed to meet in person, their dialogue is accompanied by subtitles representing their inner thoughts (a la Annie Hall), which is insightful enough to make up for the lack of chemistry, but alas that technique lasts only that one scene.

Eventually Maddy decides that she simply must take the risk of leaving home, which ultimately leads to an alarming twist that re-contextualizes the entire film. Suddenly, Everything, Everything is filled with so much more depth than it has been letting on, but there is not enough running time left to fully grapple with all of the implications of this reveal. What at first appears to be (and in fact largely is) a shamelessly mushy love story transforms into an examination of grief and the lengths that people go to protect themselves. These are two sides of a coin that could very well complement each other, but it is hard to be satisfying when one is so much more heavily weighted than the other.

Everything, Everything is Recommended If You Like: The Space Between Us, The music of Ludwig Göransson

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Astronauts