Review: The First Purge Endorses Social Catharsis and Population Control
The NFFA attempts to justify government sanctioned extermination in an explicitly racist way.
Since its inception in 2013, The Purge series has both enticed and frightened viewers. The idea of having one night a year where all crime is legal was the backbone of the storyline for all four films, but could they successfully continue a series based solely on that main concept? Unfortunately, The First Purge did not live up to my expectations, even as a fan of the franchise.
Essentially, the film is a prequel to The Purge, written to explain how the annual event came to be. The film wastes no time pitting two classes (and races) against each other. The underprivileged that are seen as guinea pigs in this radical new experiment and those who can afford to flee the island.
Enticing the residents with a promise of $5,000 if they remain on the island, and more for actively participating in crimes, they are implanted with tracking devices and given a box containing colored contact lenses that will record all of their movements and broadcast them back to the officials watching over them in real time.
The first part of the movie was slow, due to the development of the purge idea. The purpose of the experiment is soon revealed as a way for lower class citizens to ultimately destroy each other. The movie was less of a horror film and more of your stereotypical gang movie. Two drug kingpins rule over their territories, trying to take each other out with an arsenal of weapons. The movie lacked scares, which is troubling considering it is being billed as a horror movie.
Once the purge commences, to the surprise and disappointment of the NFFA, the residents are throwing block parties, so they immediately send in mercenaries to coerce them into participating. At times, the movie’s attempts at humor fell flat and the dialogue was mundane. The acts of violence in the film evoke images of real hate crimes. Torches, hoods, and Nazi regalia were just a few of the recognizable symbols of hate unleashed on the citizens in hopes to get them to release their pent up anger and commit crimes.
The last twenty minutes are when the real action begins. The officials besiege the low income high-rise where the main characters have barricaded themselves to wait out the last two hours of the purge. For those with light sensitivities, take note that the last 10 minutes or so contain strong strobe light effects that all come to a screeching halt with an explosion and the siren signaling the end of the very first purge.
Despite enlisting academy award winner Marisa Tomei in the cast, the movie is missing that key ingredient to be a success. It lacks the fantasy factor that the previous Purge movies had, leaving just guns to tell the story. Whether the change in director had anything to do with that is hard to say.
The movie has its fair share of violence, living up to previous installments. It had a good concept if only it would have been executed properly, although it provides some answers on the birth of the purge. The colored contact lenses gave a nice aesthetic touch and the addition of the new Halloween movie poster was a neat surprise.
The exploitation of real world politics and racial tensions in today’s climate blurred the storyline. The excessive use of derogatory words was just pointless and needless. The movie was very black vs. white with no room for compromise.
Regardless if it lives up its predecessors’ box office numbers, it most likely means the end to a series that had continued to push boundaries. The First Purge fell short in this viewer’s eyes. It’s quite ironic that those who are protesting against the purge and what it stands for are still actively participating in it. During the closing credits, we were informed that The Purge will soon be a TV series.