The First Purge – Film Review by Katie McCann
Director: Gerard McMurray
Writer: James DeMonaco
Stars: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade
The Purge Franchise from Universal Studios has been making the rounds since 2013. Set in the not too distant future they portray a version of America where one day a year, for 12 hours, all crime is legal. What ensues, of course, is a total anarchic bloodbath where everyone is able to act out their darkest most violent desires, which leads to a drop in crime for the other 364 days of the year. It’s a pretty simplistic idea but what the films have raised is how in this world it is always the poor that suffer most and usually at the hands of the rich, mostly white, elite. The First Purge now deals with this idea head-on.
The film opens with the newly elected Founding Fathers Party taking power and launching their “social experiment” in an attempt to address the rise in crime and unemployment. The Purge will take place on Staten Island where poverty and violence are at their highest. Civilians who chose to stay during the Purge will be given $5000 plus more if they chose to take part, the amount growing the more violent their crimes. But will the citizens act the way the government hopes they will? Proving their point and allowing them to roll the Purge out nationwide and what will they do to make sure it is a success?
The First Purge does its best to become more than just another gruesome horror movie. The parallels between the state of modern America and this fictionalised version of it are stark and at times incredibly obvious. The treatment of minorities, the black lives matter movement and rise in right-wing extremism are right there on the screen for all to see. At times the filmmakers don’t even try to hide what their message is and their distaste for the current administration. When a woman is attacked and groped by a man wearing a baby mask, she fights him off and as she runs away, yells out “pussy grabbing mother fucker!”. The First Purge now feels like a warning of what is around the corner more than a version of a dystopian future, but it’s a warning that doesn’t have enough substance to make the fear level anything less than superficial.
The plot focuses on the mostly Black and Latino citizens of a large apartment block and how they will fight to hold on to their humanity as well as their lives over the 12 hours of the Purge. What ensues is 90 minutes of violence, with dialogue so thin it seems like the writers barely even tried and a cast really trying their best to make the most of what could have been a genuinely socially aware horror movie.
If you’re a fan of these films and the violence they offer you won’t be too disappointed. If you were hoping for a new breed of horror along the lines of Get Out or Hereditary, best give The First Purge a miss.