Film Review: The First Purge

Dystopian horror prequel The First Purge offers the same brand of violence and social commentary as the rest of the series. Four films in, it all feels a bit too familiar. 

After the breakdown of American society, a new political party (the New Founding Fathers of America) is in power. The party allow an experiment to take place on Staten Island; for twelve hours, all crime is legal…

A prequel to the horror trilogy, The First Purge shows viewers how the annual event first began. The film concentrates on an experiment that takes place on Staten Island, which paves the way for a national event. The opening gambit summarises how America got to the point where the purge experiment would be acceptable. Director Gerard McMurray breezes through this aspect, using newsreel of protests to show how America has come to this point. The reasoning behind the experiment is flimsy, with the scantest of efforts exploring the method behind it. 

From the first film in 2013, The Purge series has become more of a reflection of contemporary America. The first film felt like satire, but the filmmakers have tried to marry the films to real-life issues increasingly as the series has progressed. This prequel continues this trend, feeling less satire and more possible future. Some of the imagery, references, and phrases capitalise on this. 

There is a high body count in The First Purge, but the feeling of déjà vu is strong. As the narrative is set up, the movements are too familiar. The protagonists are made clear, but character development is not a priority for writer James DeMonaco. Later in the film there is a sequence taken straight from The Raid; the foreshadowing is almost overpowering for those familiar with Gareth Evans’ film. 

Performances in the film are perfectly acceptable. Mugga’s Delores given some good lines, providing necessary comic relief. Marisa Tomei is underused in a thankless role. Lex Scott Davis is decent. Dialogue in the film is not always great, but an improvement on the last chapter, The Purge: Election Year.

The First Purge rounds up the series suitably well, and leaves the film franchise no where to go. The film is not boring, but is not original either. 

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