The First Purge

2018-08-31 07:26
 

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

To push the crime rate below one percent for the rest of the year, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) test a sociological theory that vents aggression for one night in one isolated community. But, when the violence of oppressors meets the rage of the marginalised, the contagion will explode from the trial-city borders and spread across the nation.

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

The Purge has been an interesting horror franchise, starting off with the creeptastic Purgers terrorising a well-off family, descending into the class warfare of Anarchy and finally the fight for regaining the country’s humanity in the third installment with Election Year (by far my favourite).

While sometimes these kinds of franchises don’t know when to stop (jury’s still out on The Purge TV show), but The First Purge is a useful addition in creating a backstory for how the US ended up with such a violent tradition. With a fresh new director – Gerard McMurray from Fruitvale Station – this installment is more of an action movie rather than a horror, which unfortunately gets lost in the not-so-subtle political messaging that permeates the movie. With a country faced by high unemployment and crime, a new political party initiates a social experiment – later dubbed The Purge – in the poor socio-economic community of Staten Island.

People are offered money to participate in the experiment, and when people would rather party than kill, the government decides to tip the scale. The First Purge is more of a political statement against the Trump administration than a true societal horror, and while it would be ignorant to deny the similarities between the regime that would start The Purge and the current US President, it almost completely loses that fear of a society collectively losing its mind.

They try to stay true to The Purge spirit with the inclusion of a crazed drug addict – Skeletor played by Rotimi Paul – but he’s more of a passing thought on the screen and doesn’t incite any fear in the audience. For those who prefer their action rather than their scare-jumps, The First Purge could attract non-fans with its well-executed fight scenes that clearly shows Michael Bay’s involvement as producer (but luckily not his scriptwork).

This makes the film fun to watch, but watching a drug lord beat up a whole squad of trained killers is not really why people come to watch a Purge movie. As for the two main characters – an anti-Purge activist (Lex Scott Davis) with a wayward brother (Joivan Wade) and a drug lord (Y’lan Noel) who doesn’t want anything to do with the experiment – they don’t really make themselves very memorable, except for a fantastically filmed fight scene on the stairs of an apartment block.

The script itself was decent, written by the previous Purge director, and the story plays out as you think it would, throwing in some heavy-handed Trump references, and one can appreciate the message they want to convey about the socio-economic hardships faced by black communities in the US and some of the government policies that hurt only them. Up until you get fist-bumped while you’re bleeding out in the road before someone goes on a suicide mission.

The general audience will enjoy The First Purge (obvious by the fact that it’s the highest grossing Purge entry in the US) and is a good watch when you don’t know what to watch. It’s understandable that when your story is about the first Purge, people haven’t completely lost their minds yet and thus you’ll have to find other ways to make it appealing, and action and politics is one way to do it. But if you’re looking to the franchise for your fix of the horror of humanity, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

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