This is not a test, this is your emergency broadcast system announcing the imminent release of the latest and final entry in The Purge film franchise.
Yes, that’s right, James DeMonaco’s dystopian action horror creation that sees all crime, including murder being legal for twelve hours one night a year is coming to an end with the fifth film, The Forever Purge. A
fter four films and a TV series, this final instalment is at last being released in the UK this month.
To celebrate its release I’ve looked back at its four-film predecessors and ranked them worst to best.
4. The First Purge (2018) – Director: Gerard McMurray
Don’t let the title confuse you, The First Purge is actually the most recent film in the series, its name simply refers to its chronological placement as it acts as a prequel to the first three films.
In this first film not to be directed by series creator DeMonaco the story focuses on the very first Purge, originally known simply as “The Experiment”.
After the tease at the end of the previous film, Election Year (more on this later) it does feel like somewhat of a cop-out to look back rather than forward, however, the concept is at least good.
Showing audiences how the NFFA (New Founding Fathers of America) introduced the Purge is interesting and it allows the film to have its own unique narrative, to a point.
Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough done here that hasn’t already been seen in the series up to this point.
The most intriguing storyline is the one featuring the ethical concerns of Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei), the architect of the Purge experiment and it really has potential but disappointingly it comes to a halt all too suddenly and feels unfinished.
Aside from this storyline the others present concerning the remaining characters feel too reminiscent of previous instalments and just aren’t as compelling.
The film does boast some good action though, with one of its most memorable moments being a stairwell fight featuring drug kingpin Dmitri (Y’lan Noel).
Although, this isn’t enough to compete with the other films in the series and there are too many familiar beats to allow it to surpass its predecessors, so in this instance, it’s very much a case of First the worst.
3. The Purge (2013) – Director: James DeMonaco
Now for the actual first film in the series, the original from 2013.
It’s America 2022 and crime is at an all-time low thanks to the implementation of the Purge.
The film follows security system salesman James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) and his family over the course of Purge night.
The Sandins live in an affluent gated community that is normally a safe haven on Purge night.
However, when Charlie (Max Burkholder) the youngest of the family lets a wounded man (Edwin Hodge) take sanctuary inside their house, an angry mob of Purge participants demand he be released to them or they’ll break in and terrorise the Sandin’s too.
The film is basically a home invasion movie set in a high concept dystopian world with a moral dilemma at its core.
A lot of audiences criticised the film for wasting the potential of its premise by keeping the action contained to one single location, therefore failing to fully explore all the possibilities of the Purge.
However, despite these concerns The Purge remains a good home invasion thriller with ample tension, solid action and some unique twists and turns along the way.
The casting of well-known performers such as Hawke, and his onscreen wife Lena Headey also helps to launch the series well and at a succinct eighty-two minute running time it remains the shortest of the series.
Unfortunately knowing what is to come in the films after it means that The Purge and its more simplistic plot doesn’t quite hold up just as well on rewatch.
Nonetheless, it’s an entertaining and successful series opener that has spawned a full franchise that’s still going almost a decade later.
Never forget all the good that The Purge does.
2. The Purge: Anarchy (2014) – Director: James DeMonaco
There’s really not a lot in it between the top two films in the series but taking the runner up spot is The Purge: Anarchy.
It directly challenges the criticisms of the first film, expanding the narrative into the wider world of the Purge.
Set in 2023 it sets up three main storylines and groups of characters, showing us different aspects of Purge night.
The threat of violence feels much scarier than before and it’s very effective in creating a sinister sense of dread on the streets as the characters attempt to survive the night.
As well as this increased fright factor the action takes a step up too.
With Frank Grillo starring as Leo, an off duty LAPD sergeant out for revenge on Purge night the film maintains a good momentum and his performance ensures the action stays at an impressive level throughout.
The mystery of what his goal is combined with the increased political commentary, as well as the range of characters means that this entry delivers much more in terms of the potential of the overall Purge concept.
One criticism would be that at times the film feels a little bit overstuffed.
No doubt conscious of the complaints of the simplicity of the first film DeMonaco writes a lot of different sequences and threats into this instalment, it certainly lives up to its name, Anarchy – however, some of these moments (the auction) could even have been the subjects of their very own movie.
So whilst some moments can maybe feel a little shoehorned in this sequel is a definite step up from the original, plus the return of Dante, the wounded man from the first film, known here as “The Stranger” offers some nice continuity between the films despite their standalone nature.
Surely things can’t get more anarchistic than this though?
Enter, an American Presidential election.
1. The Purge: Election Year (2016) – Director: James DeMonaco
Very narrowly edging past Anarchy for the top spot is The Purge: Election Year.
The third film in the series, set in 2040, sees U.S. Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) running against NFFA candidate Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor) for Presidency with the very clear intention of bringing the Purge to an end.
This instalment also sets up several other groups of characters much like in Anarchy and has their individual storylines eventually crossing paths.
In a clever move for the film, Grillo returns as Leo and is now acting as Senator Roan’s head of security.
With Roan gaining in popularity the NFFA plan to murder her using Purge night as a cover, so as a result, Leo has to attempt to keep Roan safe until sunrise.
How the film succeeds is by having all the freedom of exploring this world like in Anarchy whilst also having the overarching narrative of the presidential election, easily giving this entry the biggest scale of the series.
Furthermore, the supporting characters are maybe the most likeable of all the films with Joe (Mykelti Williamson) a deli owner and Laney (Betty Gabriel) a volunteer triage worker during Purge night being just two examples of this. Joe, especially, brings a lot of comedy to the film which offers some light and shade to the often very bleak proceedings.
The film’s final moments also deliver the biggest narrative development the series has ever seen, with Roan winning the election and bringing the Purge to an end.
This ruling is met with rioting and increased violence and new film The Forever Purge is set to document this fallout.
Ultimately, further exploration of the world, returning characters, bigger and better action and horror plus an overarching narrative with the most scale seen in the series so far ensure that Election Year is the frontrunner in the Purge polls.
Directed by Everardo Valerio Gout and written by series creator DeMonaco, The Forever Purge will give fans one last chance to explore this dystopian horror landscape but will it deliver a successful culmination for the series?
It’s almost time to find out!
So why don’t you release the beast and let us know your ranking of the first four Purge movies and whether or not you think The Forever Purge will be a good send-off for the series.
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