The First Purge stars Lex Scott Davis, Y’Lan Noel, and Joivan Wade and was directed by Gerard McMurray. Despite being the fourth film in the franchise, it serves as a prequel to the series and shows the experimental origins of the Purge as well as the events of the first ever Purge. If you’ve seen any of the Purge movies, The First Purge is more of the same. But, that’s not meant to be a knock on the film. Really, we’re four movies into the franchise, so I’m not sure what else people would be expecting.
Either you think these movies are alright or you think they’re crap. Wherever you currently stand on the topic of the Purge franchise, this film isn’t gonna change your opinion. The First Purge is (ironically) more in line with the second and third films of this franchise than the true first one. Once again, we’re out on the streets and focusing our attention on socioeconomically disadvantaged characters. This prequel was inevitable and I can’t say that I wasn’t interested in seeing how The Purge came to be.
The premise always seemed far-fetched, so I was looking forward to seeing how they dealt with its introduction. Unfortunately, the film opens only days before the test-run experimental first Purge, so we only really get superficial information about its instigation. To its credit, the film does present the experimental Purge “realistically”. For such an outlandish policy, the residents’ initial reactions are actually more along the liens of what you’d expect. Unlike the previous three Purge films, there really isn’t an instant threat of death the moment the commencement horn sounds. Aside from a few vengeful or dr*g-addled individuals, people don’t immediately act violently which seems like what would truly happen if such an event were to be introduced.
Despite this pleasantly unexpected component, the film still suffers from the same issues as the other installments in the franchise. Characters constantly make stupid choices, for one. The first half of the movie also relies almost exclusively on creepy glowing contact lenses for its scares. It has some terrible CG blood, most noticeably during a very smoky scene, and also falls into the trap of introducing funny one-liners or outrageously random moments that take away from the tension and unnerving atmosphere. Anything with the two old ladies is a prime example of this.
This franchise has long been trying to say something and has been variably successful in doing so. It attempts to present itself as sociopolitical commentary of the government and the nature of humanity in America. To an extent, this film succeeded in that goal, but it’s not as smart as it thinks it is. I think the heavy-handed messages don’t hit quite as intended. Satirical origins or not, this franchise has ironically transformed into a type of purge itself; something that audiences can go to on an annual basis to get their action horror carnage and mayhem fix. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one has gotta be the premise.
We’re four movies into the franchise at this point, so they needed to do something a little different to reinvigorate things and I think the prequel route worked really well. As absurd as the concept of the Purge is, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious about how it all got started. And I kinda liked the way they approached it. The social experiment angle was interesting and I really liked the responses that people initially had. Again, as out-there as the whole thing is, it sorta started off realistically which I guess was kinda a pleasant surprise. On the con side, the biggest issues come into play once the Purge is underway.
The most blatant of these issues is something that has plagued this franchise from the start: dumb character decisions. Now I know, that’s kinda to be expected from a horror movie like this, but it doesn’t make it any less irritating. The fact that anybody ever goes out on Purge night is stupid enough, but there are so many frustrating moments in this movie where even characters who are initially portrayed as fairly smart, keep putting themselves in ultra vulnerable situations. Con number two is the way this movie handles its scares.
The pre-Purge time is fine cause it’s all character set-up, but once that commencement horn sounds, you expect tension and decent horror. Unfortunately, most of the horror here comes from jump scares and goofy-looking glowing contact lenses. It’s not terrible, but it’s not as satisfying as I would’ve liked. I’m gonna give The First Purge 3 out of 5 paws. For an annual horror franchise this many movies in, this was a surprisingly solid entry.
It’s more of the same on the horror side, but I really liked looking at the origins of the Purge. I would recommend The First Purge to fans of The Purge franchise. Like I said before, this movie offers more of the same in terms of the horror side of things, but offers some interesting explanation and backstory to the origins of the Purge. Because of its prequel nature, this is also a movie that can be understood without having seen the other films in the franchise, so if you just want some okay, satirical carnage, this might be for you. If you liked The First Purge, I’ve gotta recommend the first Purge movie. As in the actual first movie in the series.
Even though the other sequels have the out-in-the-streets quality that this one does, the first movie was the most grounded in satire and was a good introduction to this Purge world. If you liked the political aspects of this movie, definitely check out The Purge: Election Year for a different look at the political throughline of the franchise. And if you like the elaborate, masked home invasion portions of this movie, I’d suggest You’re Next for a solid horror thriller. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen The First Purge? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite movie featuring a social experiment? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.