The Purge film series makes me love horror films — not that the films make any kind of real logical sense that I agree with or that they are even amazing horror films. Quite frankly, The Purge series is none of those things. However, The Purge film series is a thought-provoking look at good vs. evil. Love the films or hate them, when you leave the theater, you will talk about the movies, you will mull over the ideas expressed by the films and you will think about what you would actually do if you were placed in such situations. That’s why, even though so much is wrong with the entire idea behind The Purge films, I keep coming back for another installment.
The Purge, to recap, is set in a world that is drowning in high unemployment numbers, a plunging stock market and extreme crime. In the 2013 film titled The Purge, we find out that somehow, magically, allowing people one night to go out and just kill, rape and murder has somehow ended all crime. I’m not sure how that would actually work; none the less, that is the supposed result, along with a booming economy. In the following films this idea is explored, although the idea of no crime has slowly been mentioned less in the films, while the idea of a booming economy has become the focal point. The idea being if you get rid of the right people, suddenly you no longer have a problem with unemployment.
In The First Purge, we see exactly how the very fist Purge went down. The problem is there is very little explanation given on why a psychologist would think this would somehow end crime, as most crime is actually financial in nature. Selling drugs, theft, even prostitution is all based on a black-market profit, not rage… but OK, let’s just go ahead and go with it. The psychiatrist is played by Marisa Tomei, who really isn’t in the film that much. This seems a waste of talent and the best actress in the film. We then meet our band of characters: Lex Davis plays Nya, a save-the-world type who protests the Purge. Her brother, Isaiah (Joivan Wade), wants a better life and his sister, Skeletor (Rotimi Paul), is a crazed purger out to kill Isaiah, and Dmitri (Y’lan Noel), who is Nya’s ex-boyfriend and current drug dealer. More time is spent establishing these characters’ relationships at the beginning of the film than the more interesting idea of how the actual idea of The Purge came together. The film takes place on Staten Island, where it has been decided the “New Founding Fathers” are going to have the social experiment of The Purge. If it goes well, then the idea will be carried out nationwide in the future. Those living on the island are given financial rewards to stay on the island and higher rewards to participate.
As always, the costuming is superb, perhaps not quite as good as the last two films, but for a horror fan, stunning none the less. The action in the film is well worth the price of a ticket. There are KKK hooded men and neo Nazis roaming around and there’s police brutality. You will be triggered, but you will also be drawn in. Like it or not, exploitation films are fun and The First Purge is undeniably just that: exploitation. I’m not exactly sure if all involved know in their haste to be “woke,” or that they actually made a pretty classic exploitation film with definite ’70s vibes, but they did. I could spend time discussing all of the social and political ideas expressed in this film, but perhaps that’s an entirely different article.
I give The First Purge four stars for action, creepy cult vibes, and great masks and makeup. The First Purge is a great way for a horror fan to celebrate Independence day! The First Purge is currently in theaters; check your local listings for showtimes.