From a screenplay by franchise creator and narrative mastermind James DeMonaco comes The Forever Purge, the next chapter in Blumhouse’s infamous terror franchise, hurtling into innovative new territory as all the rules are broken when a sect of lawless marauders decides that the annual Purge does not stop at daybreak and instead should never end.
In 2013, in writer/director James DeMonaco’s groundbreaking thriller The Purge, the world was introduced to an unthinkable social experiment. What if, every year—for 12 hours—all crime, including murder, were made legal?
DeMonaco’s satirical take on class, racism, poverty and oppression became an instant classic in the horror canon, underscoring just how brutal modern society could become if the people and entities in power went unchecked.
In DeMonaco’s deceptively simple premise, audiences found nods to prescient short stories including Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” as well as shot-across-the-bow films such as American Psycho and A Clockwork Orange.
As with the most imaginative of allegories, his series speaks to modern deep-seated fears and day-to-day realities, allowing us to ponder, “Could this really happen…?”
In the chapters that followed: 2014’s explosive The Purge Anarchy, 2016’s political conspiracy The Purge: Election Year and 2018’s The First Purge—which revealed to moviegoers how the experiments of the fictional New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), grew to become law—the filmmakers delved further into insidious dystopia. With each new entry, DeMonaco and his fellow producers went deeper into the bastardization of government by those who hold the strings.
Through The Purge series, James DeMonaco has tapped into the dark undercurrents and long-simmering anger of the American public, which, in recent years has been turned up to a rolling boil.
“People are pissed,” DeMonaco says. “Pissed off about something. Every group is angry. The impoverished and disadvantaged are angry, for example, about the lack of upward mobility. The middle class feels extreme anger about rising medical costs and the democratic elite’s ‘romance’ (that what they’ve called it—not me) of immigrants. African-Americans are angry at racial profiling in cities. White males are angry because women, immigrants and minorities are challenging the political and economic system that had served white males exclusively for over a hundred years. It’s like Howard Beale said: ‘I’m mad as hell, and I just can’t take it anymore!’”
DeMonaco believes that when this sentiment is coupled with partisan news and/or false information that supports specific agendas, more fury rises among the masses.
“Suddenly, people look at The Purge as a potentially cathartic exercise to release this up-welling anger,” DeMonaco says.
“In the films, the NFFA sells The Purge to the American people by saying it will help them release this anger…and ultimately become better citizens. It’s all a psychological ruse. The Purge is nothing more than a grotesque economic tool for the NFFA to rid themselves of the disenfranchised, the impoverished—the very people they should be taking care of. The Purge is nothing more than a means to save money.”
For the filmmaker, many themes in his stories are borne from observing the growing faultlines in America over the last decade.
“With each year, our country seems to be growing even more divided, more exclusionary, angrier, less tolerant,” DeMonaco says. “At points, the country seems like a powder keg ready to blow over some issue—gun control, immigration, religious beliefs, etc. Immigration was the most recent issue creating a deep rift in American thought, and this is what I wanted to tackle in The Forever Purge. I wanted to ask the question, ‘Was one day enough to release all this anger?’ The answer was no.’”
Set several years after the third chapter, The Forever Purge centers on Adela and Juan, a married couple forced to abandon their home in Mexico when the drug cartel, in a vendetta against Adela, destroys their home and attempts to assassinate her. As reluctant refugees, Adela and Juan are smuggled to the United States by coyotes and start life anew in Los Feliz Valley, Texas.
Months after Adela and Juan begin to settle in, they endure and survive their first Purge Night. But the following morning, extremists known as “Forever Purgers” take to the streets and vow to destabilize an already fractured America, targeting everyone from immigrants to the wealthy. Suddenly the couple and the Tuckers— the affluent Texas ranch family for whom Juan works —are both being hunted, and it will fall to Adela and Juan to try and lead their newfound American allies to sanctuary on the southern side of the Mexico border.
The Producers Align
“Jason optioned a few scripts of mine after he left Miramax,” DeMonaco says. “We’d drink together and discuss movies. We were both young and naive, believing we could get all our films made.” Pause. “Now, we’re both old and naive.” DeMonaco laughs. “Seriously, though, Jason is far from it. I have to remain naive to think anything I write will get made, but with Sébastien and Jason on my side, I have a much better chance of doing that.”
The bedrock of the relationship between the three of them is trust.
“We all trust each other to do our jobs,” DeMonaco says. “We don’t get in each other’s way. We’re also pretty honest—something I learned first working with Sébastien in Europe. We fight and yell and are brutally honest with each other but don’t hold grudges. We scream, and then we’re drinking tequila the next minute.”
Together, they’ve made five Purge films and two seasons of The Purge television series, among other projects.
Lemercier has long believed that what is simultaneously exciting and scary about The Purge’s central tenet is that it is the ultimate nightmare of society writ large.
“We are protected because we all obey a certain number of rules,” Lemercier says. “When that stops happening, and it’s true all over the world, that’s the most terrifying thing. You see it in countries where there’s a civil war; you see it at times in America, obviously.”
And, fortunately or unfortunately, the world and America keep giving the trio fertile ground for new Purge chapters.
“Each time we say, ‘How can we make this even bigger?’” Lemercier says. “This time, James had the idea that people Purge, they get addicted to it, and they can’t stop anymore. The joy of destruction becomes stronger than the love of society and civilization.”
There’s palpable, existential danger to that, both in the film and in the real world. “Often we, all of us as citizens, criticize society,” Lemercier says. “We criticize the police force and government, not realizing that without all these institutions—ones that sometimes feel claustrophobic for the individual—it would be far worse if we had to fend for ourselves.”
Jason Blum has spent his career producing films that push boundaries, and it’s one of the central reasons his partnership with DeMonaco and Lemercier has been so successful.
“I’ve rarely met more intelligent, reflective and creative filmmakers,” Blum says. “They understand that the movies in The Purge series are designed to challenge the audience. They remind audiences that dark ‘solutions’ could easily come to pass if we all sit idly by and let power go unchecked, and the real heroes are those who rise up and refuse to watch their world collapse.”
The trio’s fellow series producers—Platinum Dunes’ Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form—have joined forces with them on every Purge film. Initially, none of them expected the journey would lead the franchise where it is today.
“It’s somehow both astonishing and expected that this franchise has grown into what it’s become,” Brad Fuller says. “James has marshalled a rare mastery at being able to share allegorical stories that shock audiences and make us shake our heads at what we could become. That is a masterful filmmaker who wields that power, and we remain in awe of him.”
The franchise has been an ideal partnership in all aspects.
“James’ premise of ‘what if one night….?’ has grown into this intricately detailed world in which violence threatens to explode at any point, and no one is safe from its tendrils,”
Andrew Form says. “I’m honored that we’ve been able to join them, telling stories that are important for viewers to consider—making them reflect on our shared humanity—as well as giving them hope to become like the heroes of our tales.”
A New Perspective
When it came time to find the ideal director to take the helm on The Forever Purge, the filmmakers were seeking, first and foremost, someone whose artistic sensibilities would keep the film anchored in the real world, visually, narratively and emotionally.
“The main characters in the film are a Mexican couple, very much in love, leaving Mexico and immigrating to America,” James DeMonaco says. “We wanted a director who could bring real authenticity to this story. Everardo Gout is from Mexico; he’s lived in New York, Los Angeles and Paris. We knew there would be no bullshit to his storytelling. More importantly, Sébastien and I loved Everardo’s first film, Days of Grace. Even more important than that, we really like Everardo.”
DeMonaco found Gout to be a soulful, thoughtful artist who understood the sociopolitical underpinnings of The Purge and could amplify them.
“Everardo saw and recognized the political ideas we were smuggling into the genre narrative,” DeMonaco says. “He brought details to the story that came from his life in Mexico…details I wouldn’t be able to have found in my research. And, like the characters in the movie, Everardo hails from another country and his feelings about The Purge—and what it ultimately means about America and its relationship with violence—are unique and different than the feelings that those of us born in the U.S. may have. It was refreshing to get a new view into our country and into the franchise.”
And as a bonus, Gout also shared a certain passion with his fellow filmmakers. “Everardo deeply loves tequila, as do Sébastien and I,” DeMonaco says. “So, it was a perfect match. He introduced us to mezcal, good mezcal, and that was very nice, too.”
For his part, Gout was excited for the opportunity to dive into the rich, layered world that DeMonaco and his fellow Purge filmmakers had created. “I received a treatment, and my agent told me ‘I know this isn’t something you’d think immediately of, but it’s very interesting,’” Gout says. “He wasn’t wrong. I felt that the relevance of the material was perfect for our times. James’ metaphor throughout his vision has been fascinating. With this one, he’s hit the nail on the head.” Gout’s first meeting with DeMonaco peaked his interest even further.
“James and I had a conversation, and he said, ‘I love my franchise, and I want to let people know the views I have and how important they are to me.’ That’s what I reacted to,” Gout says. “I knew I would have the chance to work on a franchise that gets to so many people—one that excites them and takes them on a thrill ride…but at the same time, as we say in Mexico, ‘hides the vitamins within the cake.’ It’s the best of the scenarios.”
He also appreciated that the Purge filmmakers prized direct, honest communication at all times—a rarity in the film industry, to say the least. “My friends know that I’ll come out with no bullshit,” Gout says. “I also love James for that. We clicked from the beginning.”
Lemercier was impressed and excited by what Gout, who comes from an art-house background, responded to, artistically, in DeMonaco’s material. “Everardo searches for visuals, for challenges in the directing style,” Lemercier says. “There’s a touch to it, a style more based on visual art rather than simply just storytelling. Everardo brought us a touch of poetry, if I may say.”
Gout was grateful to be seen and valued for those qualities because they’re central to who he is. “I can’t just do work-for-hire; that’s just not who I am,” Gout says. “It was great to find collaborators who trusted my vision.” And who shared his commitment for putting the truth on the screen. “Our producers are cultivated guys with whom you can speak books, you can speak movies,” Gout says. “There’s a lot of shared references and, together, we found inspiration to conjugate the right sentences. That is what we wanted to bring to the table.”
For Jason Blum, Gout proved to be the ideal filmmaker for The Forever Purge.
“Although our last film explored what it looks like to fight the machine itself, The Forever Purge offers the idea that American society might just be too far gone,” Blum says. “Everardo’s operatic way of showcasing tenderness among our heroes—amidst inexplicable violence—is such a gift. His work is captivating.”
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