The First Purge
Any not familiar with The Purge franchise might not know what to expect from Gerard McMurray’s The First Purge, a prequel in the series. Presented as violent horror, surprisingly the piece reveals itself as strongly political in theme, echoing some concerns regarding the situation in the US today.
“The American Dream is dead,” say the National Rifle Association-supported New Founding Fathers of America. They endeavour to revive it by reducing disorder in society, allowing one night of sanctioned crime and murder. Led by Dr May Updale (Marisa Tomei), scientists conduct a psychological experiment called a Purge, paying low-income inhabitants of Staten Island to participate – which involves receiving implants and wearing eerie-looking florescent contact lenses to record the mayhem. With complete media coverage, at first there is dismay that the brutality is minimal, many instead attending a “Purge party”. Gradually crime increases: one psycho character Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) becomes a killing machine; robberies are frequent; and crazy elderly ladies plant exploding toys.
The twist is that this experiment is not what it seems but is instead part of a nightmarish and sinister conspiracy. As the bloodshed becomes extreme, members of the community must defend themselves any way they can – not from their own, but from a new breed of killer that has descended on them.
Echoing the theme of films like Bushwick, the people fight back. It is gratifying to see anti-hero turned hero Dmitri (Y’lan Noel ) lead a determined Rambo-like group in defence of his neighbourhood – and as a valiant solo warrior, battle to save anti-Purge activist Nya (Lex Scott Davis) and her loved ones from certain death.
The performances are impressive. Noel and Scott Davis are excellent, and Paul’s wacky psycho monster is terrific. The cinematography, editing, special effects, scene design, costuming and make-up are admirable. However, although the sound is effective and forceful, it is slightly overdone, overpowering already expressive visuals.
With some humour relieving the picture’s intensity, and despite strong violence, the piece inspires a sense of compassion, an enhanced empathy for disadvantaged communities and admiration and respect for those who stand up for their rights and fight for survival.
The First Purge is not your typical gore-for-its-own-sake thriller but is a work with a message about dire world issues. Entertaining and well-constructed, the feature is also meaningful, poignant and thought-provoking.
The First Purge is released nationwide on 4th July 2018.
Watch the trailer for The First Purge her