The First Purge - 2018
Director(s): Gerard McMurray
Writer(s): James DeMonaco
Cinematography by: Anastas N. Michos
Editor(s): Jim Page
Cast: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Mugga, Patch Darragh, Marisa Tomei and Rotimi Paul
Synopsis: America's third political party, the New Founding Fathers of America, comes to power and conducts an experiment: no laws for 12 hours on Staten Island. No one has to stay on the island, but $5,000 is given anyone who does (IMDB).
This marks the fourth installment of the Purge franchise and it’s actually a prequel to the first three taking us back to the… well, first ever purge. Writer James DeMonaco, along with Blumhouse Productions, continue to be the sole voices behind all four of the movies. This time around they recruited director Gerard McMurray coming off his directorial debut 2017’s Burning Sands. Despite it having a new set of eyes behind the camera, this movie looks and feels like more of the same. Let’s talk about it.
The story centers around the impoverished section of Staten Island, the site chosen to go through “The Experiment”. They are convinced to stay on the island with the promise of $5,000 to whoever makes it through the night, an amount many consider life changing due to their current circumstances. When the participants aren’t acting the way the government wants, a militia is sent into the island to ramp the violence up for the viewing audience. While I applauded DeMonaco for making his social commentary more in line with what is happening in our current society, it still gets lost once again in the glamorizing of the violence.
If you have seen a Purge movie before you will know exactly the story beat this one will follow: somehow our leads will get stuck walking the streets on Purge night. They will encounter random groups of “gangs” or a lone wolf set out to indulge in their violent tendencies, all of them coming into frame with the use or, in my opinion, over use of jump scares to the point that you start to get tense with anticipation. Not tense like scared, just tense because a loud noise is about to happen at any moment. There are movies that utilize jump scares masterfully (The Descent and Hereditary to name a few) and thrive as horror movies because of it. This movie is the perfect example as to why people normally deem jump scares as a bad horror trope.
Quick note: with excessive violence comes excessively blood… well, CGI blood, and it got to the point that it was laughably bad. Oh, and there is an explosion where the fire looks horribly comical.
The acting for the most part is solid. Y’lan Noel plays Dimitri, the head of the biggest drug gang of Staten Island and the last line of defense when the militia takes the community by storm. His action sequences are fairly well-executed and he delivers on his menacing dialogues. I bought into his persona and he looks like someone that could potentially become a future action star, given the right scripts to play with.
The First Purge is another installment in a franchise that has worn out its welcome. It is dependent on dumb character decisions, repetitive jump scares and the glorification of excessive violence that gets old quickly into the runtime. Despite having solid acting all around, you feel completely disconnected from the experience to where you don’t care what happens to the characters you are supposed to be invested in. While it’s not a horrible movie, it offers nothing new from its predecessors, leaving me to think, why was it even made. CGI blood is why I love movies. Not really, I miss blood squibs.
The First Purge is currently playing in theaters. Netflix watch when you have to clean your house.
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