The Purge franchise is about a near future in the U.S. where (almost) all crime, including murder, is legal for a 12-hour period once a year. In the mythology of the franchise, Purge Night was created by a political party, The New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), ostensibly as a way to repair the country after economic upheaval and social unrest. However, the Purge movies reveal a more sinister motive.
The franchise now contains four Purge movies and two seasons of a Purge TV series that aired on USA Network. A fifth film installment, The Forever Purge, comes out on July 2. The movies have grossed over $450 million collectively. With a few more films, The Purge might crack the list of the top 25 highest-grossing horror franchises of all time. It’s unclear if that will ever happen, though. Creator James DeMonaco says The Forever Purge will be the last Purge movie and complete the franchise.
Here’s a background on the Purge universe as well as what we can expect from The Forever Purge.
Background of Purging
In the Purge universe, The New Founding Fathers of America gained power in 2014 after the U.S. experienced an economic collapse. In 2017, the NFFA added the 28th Amendment to the Constitution, creating an annual event, Purge Night, from 7 PM on March 21 to 7 AM on March 22. During The Purge, no police, fire, or medical help is available. A few rules, such as no bombs and government officials of rank 10 or higher being immune, are in place. U.S. citizens are encouraged to participate in The Purge; it is seen as good citizenship to look forward to and participate in the annual event.
Generally, this is how the beginning of Purge Night is announced:
This is not a test.
This is your emergency broadcast system announcing the commencement of the Annual Purge sanctioned by the U.S. Government. Weapons of class 4 and lower have been authorized for use during The Purge. All other weapons are restricted. Government officials of ranking 10 have been granted immunity from The Purge and shall not be harmed. Commencing at the siren, any and all crime, including murder, will be legal for 12 continuous hours. Police, fire, and emergency medical services will be unavailable until tomorrow morning at 7 a.m., when The Purge concludes. Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn.
May God be with you all.— Purge Emergency Broadcast System
The creator of The Purge, James DeMonaco, says he was inspired by an episode of Star Trek in the show’s first season entitled The Return of the Archons. In the episode, the gang onboard the USS Enterprise discover a seemingly advanced and peaceful society. However, the inhabitants also have a “festival” during which violence and debauchery are encouraged.
The first Purge movie was simply titled The Purge and starred Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey (much more famous now as Cersei Lannister) as patriarch and matriarch of a wealthy American family experiencing the annual Purge. The year is 2022 and as a result of adopting The Purge in 2014, the U.S. now has almost no crime and a 0% unemployment rate.
James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is a salesman for a company that sells security systems created especially for protection during The Purge. He lives in a wealthy Los Angeles neighborhood with his wife Mary (Lena Headey) and his son and daughter. James and most of his neighbors have been assured security through Purge Night by the security products they purchased from James’s company.
James and Mary expect this year’s Purge to go as normal: The family intends to lock down and stay together inside until Purge Night is over. However, several things go wrong this year: His daughter’s boyfriend sneaks into the home, and his son lets in a wounded man he sees running from Purgers on the home’s security cameras. The group of Purgers see the man enter the Sandin house and make the Sandin family their new targets.
In the second Purge movie, we follow several groups of less wealthy and less prepared people trying to survive Purge Night.
A troubled husband and wife, Shane and Liz, are making their way through LA traffic trying to get to safety before The Purge starts when their car breaks down and they find themselves stranded on the freeway as the event nears.
Eva Sanchez is a waitress whose plan to survive Purge Night is just to sit in her unfortified apartment with her daughter and her terminally ill father, Rico Sanchez, because they cannot afford more security. The women make a simple barricade while they believe Rico is going to bed. They later find out that (tap to reveal spoiler) Rico has attempted to sell himself to Purgers for $100,000, hoping to help his family out and knowing he will die soon from his sickness anyway.
Leo Barnes is a grieving father who plans to use Purge Night to murder the man who killed his son in a drunk driving accident.
We also see the only returning character from the first Purge movie, Edwin Hodge, who is credited as “The Stranger.” He is part of a fringe group that opposes The Purge and the NFFA. His group is successful in airing an anti-NFFA ad before the annual Purge announcement is made.
As these separate stories begin to weave together, we start to see everything the first movie left out about The Purge and the real reason it was created.
During the year of the events of The Purge (2013), Charlene “Charlie” Roan and her family are restrained and taunted by a Purger who has imprisoned them in their own home. The Purger forces Charlie’s mother to choose which member of her family will live, assuring her he will kill everyone else. Charlie’s mother selects Charlie to survive, and the other members of her family are killed by the Purger.
Charlie grows up hating The Purge. In the year 2040 when the events of The Purge: Election Year are taking place, Charlie has become a U.S. Senator and she is running for president on the platform that she will end Purge Night. Leo Barnes (from The Purge: Election Year) is her head of security.
Right before the annual Purge, the NFFA revokes immunity for high-ranking political officials in order to attempt to carry out a hit on Charlie and end discussions of ending The Purge.
In The First Purge, a prequel to the earlier movies, we see the NFFA’s first experiment with The Purge. The event is held on Staten Island only for 12 hours. No residents of the island are forced to stay during The Purge, but everyone who does will receive $5,000. This ensures that mostly poor and working class people (who most need $5,000) will be victims of The Purge. The rich are afforded the privilege of not having to participate.
Here is how The Purge is introduced to ordinary U.S. citizens in The First Purge:
The Purge TV series aired on USA Network for two seasons. The first season follows a disparate cast of characters who each have a different goal on Purge Night. The second season is more focused on characters asking questions about why The Purge is happening beyond bare survival. Each of the reasons the characters discover fit together to form a picture about who really benefits from Purge Night.
The Forever Purge (2021)
Following the events of The Purge: Election Year, Charlie Roan is president and she ends the annual Purge Night tradition. However, not everyone is onboard with abolishing Purge Night. A couple in Texas runs into a drug cartel who intend to purge them, whether it’s legal or not. The gang calls it the beginning of “the forever Purge.”
The big reveal of the franchise is that Purge Night was (tap to reveal spoiler) never really about lowering crime rates or unemployment or “releasing the beast.” Our protagonists discover that all along the initiative was meant as a form of population control, especially toward poor communities and people of color. The NFFA created The Purge as a false flag operation. This arc makes an appearance in The Forever Purge trailer when we learn that some Americans seek asylum in Mexico. One could even say the American refugees look like a caravan.
This film is meant to complete the franchise and be the last Purge movie. Purge creator James DeMonaco said, “When I came up with the idea and pitched it to everybody, they seemed psyched, and I think it will be a really cool ending, how we take this one home.”
As Rebecca Alter from Vulture explains, it’s good timing that DeMonaco decided to up the ante because after 2020, the events of Ethan Hawke’s Purge seem like a cakewalk:
The concept of The Purge — in which all crimes are legal for one night a year — is no longer scary in 2021. We’ve seen some shit. So the fifth and (as we’ve been told) final movie of The Purge franchise has to really up its horror game. Like, what if instead of crime being legal for one night … it was legal always? Like some sort of … Forever Purge?Rebecca Alter, What If The Purge, But Forever?
Originally scheduled for release last summer and postponed because of the pandemic, The Forever Purge will be released on July 2, 2021.