Just like the previous entries before it, The First Purge manages to have a genuinely great concept that results in pure disappointment.
In a dystopia America, the crime rate is low, and unemployment is as well. Because of these great things, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) decide to test out an experiment that will let the individuals of Staten Island, New York, to let out all their anger and fury for one night a year. During this night, all crime, including murder, is legal for twelve continuous hours.
In terms of The Purge films, I genuinely do enjoy them as pure entertainment, but there has always been something I adored about each Purge installment – the concept. What makes me frustrated however, is the fact that every film manages to fail on its delivery of the concept, and The First Purge is no exception.
In fact, of all the films in this series, this honestly should have been the greatest one, and the entry that had a sense of genuine intrigue with a great payoff. But, in the same style as the previous three films in this horror franchise, it takes the concept, and instead chooses to focus on the violence of this event rather than delve deep into its origins.
We do not really get much of an explanation as to why the New Founding Fathers of America are desperately wanting to test out this experiment. We do get a taste as to why, but even that gets grossly glossed over.
When 2013’s The Purge was released in theatres, many people complained that the film felt too simple – it was basically just a home invasion thriller and nothing more. Audience members also wondered how the events depicted in that film happened. How did the United States of America get so out of hand that they have Purge Night once a year? The First Purge was supposed to answer these questions and give us a deep and disturbing look into this, but instead, managed to do nothing new, and did more of the same old.
The acting in The First Purge is also genuinely not great. Especially some of the news reporters that appear in this film. It honestly seems as if they just memorized their lines of dialogue ten minutes before the cameras started rolling.
Every Purge film does have this in common though – a real sense of fun and mayhem – including this film. There was one element to this film that I found genuinely surprising and great. After the now iconic Purge siren blares in this film, for an extraordinarily long time, nobody really does anything of severe violence. It was a nice break, instead of seeing everybody all at once start causing mayhem the second the siren stops blaring. This shows that the individuals of Staten Island in this film are genuinely scared of Purge Night, and are unsure of how to handle this situation.
Something that really bothered me about this film is some of the product placement that occurs, as well as the timeline errors. Firstly, one of the film’s main characters, Isaiah (Joivan Wade) has a poster for the upcoming 2018 Blumhouse horror film Halloween in his bedroom. This bothers me for two big reasons. Firstly, this film is set years before the events of 2013’s The Purge. During the events of The Purge, the Halloween film was not even announced yet. Second, this is pure product placement from Blumhouse trying to promote their upcoming Halloween film. Also, there is even some music that is played in this film that was released in the year 2018. Once again, similar to my previous point, how could this music be played in some of the character’s cars? We see characters blaring these songs in their cars, yet, at the time of this film’s setting, these songs were not even released yet.
The First Purge is a film that has an amazing concept but fails drastically in its execution.
Overall Grade: D+
MPAA Rating: R for strong disturbing violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use
Cast: Y’Lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Steve Harris
Directed by: Gerard McMurray
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 97 minutes