The Purge wasn’t a typical horror film. It was an intense bottle film that found ways to give movie goers the heebie-jeebies by poking holes in assumably safe conditions. It also showcased nimble newcomer James DeMonaco, a skillful director who could use paranoia and predictability to deliver an engrossing movie. DeMonaco directed the next two Purge movies – films I never saw but I’ve been eager to catch up with. Hopefully, those films are better than the franchise’s latest chapter, The First Purge.
Acting as more of an action-thriller than a horror, The First Purge doesn’t feature DeMonaco at the helm. But, just as the first film gave an up-and-comer a chance, the directorial reigns are given to a new filmmaker, Gerard McMurray (Netflix’s Burning Sands). However, McMurray’s first tentpole project suffers from extravagant ambition and tiring efforts to be timely; veering away from the subtlety that made the first film work so well.
The First Purge is a prequel-of-sorts as the film delivers an origin story to how “The Purge” came to be. Before the ritual became a staple in this apathetic universe, inhabitants of Staten Island were approached to take part in an “experiment” that would allow people to unleash their sins and thin out the population. It’s a concept that doesn’t take off right away for the New Founding Fathers of America, which is why they bait impoverished participants with money. The film mainly focuses on the impact “experiment” is having on a low-income community, and how a specific demographic gradually feels more targeted throughout the evening.
Despite its potential to be culturally relevant or even satirical, the film is always straining to find pointed parallels to our modern society and politics. Then again, it’s also hard for a film to earn credibility when it becomes increasingly ridiculous through awkward attempts to be edgy, over-the-top stereotypes, and unqualified actors who mimic their fellow cast; all resulting in a finished product that can only be described as a coarse cartoon.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie