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Social commentary in the horror genre is at an all-time high in prevalence and popularity, especially with the success of the technophobic Black Mirror on Netflix and the racially and economically conscious films of Academy Award winner Jordan Peele to name a few. However, not many horror movies have been as brutally honest (emphasis on “brutal”) with their message as the franchise created by James DeMonaco, which envisions a seemingly utopian future thanks to one night a year in which all crime is legal. Before we see the rules change with The Forever Purge, coming to theaters Friday, July 2, 2021, let’s review the history of this fictional national holiday by checking out where to find the Purge movies on streaming, available to rent, or purchase on a physical copy, starting with the thriller that started it all.
The Purge (2013)
In 2022 (dang, that’s close), salesman James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is confident he, his wife, Mary (Game of Thrones cast member Lena Headey), and two children, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder), will be safe from tonight’s federally instituted, 12-hour period of lawlessness with the home security system he has, unsurprisingly, made a fortune off of. However, soon after the chaos commences, Charlie allows a desperate stranger (Edwin Hodge, older brother of Aldis) into their home and the family becomes targeted by a group of malicious, yet cunningly polite, masked invaders.
Writer and director James DeMonaco unleashed his vision of a violence-obsessed country with this first installment that proved to be yet another big hit for Blumhouse. A politically-driven reinvention of the home invasion thriller subgenre, The Purge - streaming now on Peacock - was only a small glimpse of the anarchy the franchise had in store.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
In 2023, a grieving police sergeant (Frank Grillo) intends to take advantage of tonight’s 12-hour period of lawlessness by seeking revenge on the man who killed his son. However, soon after the chaos commences, he takes on the responsibility of guiding a waitress (Carmen Ejogo), her daughter (Zoë Soul), and a soon-to-be divorced couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) to safety after they are randomly selected as targets by the sociopaths wreaking governmentally accepted havoc.
While 2013’s The Purge provided audiences with a small window of the annual night’s horrifying circumstances from the perspective of one family forced into seclusion, this indirect sequel puts you right in the middle of the action, from the perspective of people desperately seeking refuge. Released just one year after its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy - streaming on Peacock as well - also proved Frank Grillo’s worth as leading man soon after the Marvel movies showed his worth as a villain.
The Purge: Election Year (2016)
Former police sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) now is the head of security for presidential candidate Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) who believes said 12-hour period of lawlessness does more harm than good. Soon after the chaos commences, Barnes’ job to protect Roan becomes a more urgent matter when a betrayal leaves them stranded on the streets of D.C. where citizens are exercising their right to go mad.
After depicting the horrors of the Purge in its purest and most graphic form in The Purge Anarchy, James DeMonaco ups the ante with what was the franchise’s most overtly political installment yet. Released during a real and highly polarizing election year (which I doubt was by accident), The Purge: Election Year is not available on subscription streaming platforms, but can be rented on VOD - could have been a perfectly satisfying conclusion to the carnage but, just like in real life, the chaos never really ends.
The First Purge (2018)
In the alarmingly not-too-distant future, a recently developed political party called the New Founding Fathers of America comes up with an idea they believe could help rid the world of financial upheaval and violent unrest. They decide to conduct an experiment by turning Staten Island into a completely lawless state for 12-hours and offer a $5,000 reward to anyone brave enough to participate.
Having seemingly completed his vision in a trilogy that concluded with The Purge: Election Year, James DeMonaco returned to pen a fourth film that explains how and why America decided to succumb to its violent tendencies (and give its love of twisted cosplay a shot). Gerard McMurray, a producer for Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, takes over as the director of The First Purge - a prequel that effectively builds on the franchises’ penchant for exposing the ills of society through means of graphic exploitation and is also only available to stream through digital rental.
The Purge (The Series) (2018-2019)
The world has grown accustomed to the annual tradition of allowing the American people the freedom to commit whatever crime they want once each year. This year, a group of disparate, unrelated people endure the horrors of the 12-hour period in their own ways, whether that means to avoid becoming the prey or become a predator.
In the same year in which The First Purge was released, creator James DeMonaco continued to expand on the anarchic world he created with this TV series spin-off of the Purge movies, which lasted two seasons on USA. While the film franchise focuses more prominently on the violence that inevitably ensues on Purge night, the show - which is streaming on Hulu or available on Peacock for premium subscribers - draws attention to other common restrictions people might be tempted to take advantage of, such as theft, to name one.
The latest installment, The Forever Purge, is one of the most anticipated 2021 new movie releases, especially for the horror-loving crowd. I, for one, am curious how director Everardo Gout’s sequel, which sees Purgers attempting to exercise their freedoms beyond the allowed 12-hour period, will tackle social issues and if it could even improve upon its predecessors. However, which installment of the Purge franchise (including the TV series) do you believe is the strongest so far?