And hopefully the last.
Synopsis: Behind every tradition lies a revolution. Next Independence Day, witness the rise of our country’s 12 hours of annual lawlessness. Welcome to the movement that began as a simple experiment: The First Purge. To push the crime rate below one percent for the rest of the year, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) test a sociological theory that vents aggression for one night in one isolated community. But when the violence of oppressors meets the rage of the marginalized, the contagion will explode from the trial-city borders and spread across the nation. (Universal Pictures)
Starring: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, and Joivan Wade
Writer: James DeMonaco
Director: Gerard McMurray
Rating: 18A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 97mins
The Purge series, through its first three entries, has been an example of pure mindless escapism. Its premise involving a 12 hour period every year where all crime is legal has given birth to countless scary moments where characters feared for their lives. This escapism has come from the fact that something like this could never happen in real life. However, with today’s climate, what seemed to be impossible isn’t so impossible anymore. The first three films have flaunted this premise but how did it all start? Cue this new prequel, aptly titled The First Purge.
Instead of being more of the same, this prequel takes the series in a different direction by moving away from pure mindless escapism by giving it more of a story about how the purge came to be. This was kind of unnecessary as the series has already established why the purge came to be while pushing its agenda in a subtle way. This film was not nearly as subtle, tripling down on its agenda to the point that it took over the story, suffocating everything else and making it nowhere near as fun to watch as previous films in the series.
The film is also more tame compared to the previous films in the series. The story followed a group of paper-thin characters on every side of the issue, including stereotypes that would fit the film’s agenda as well as a caricaturish bad guy, as they all prepared for a social experiment which would eventually become known as the purge. The story took a long time to get going as it felt like it needed to focus on the people on the ground and their cliche backstories. The problem with this was that they were pretty much irrelevant to the story as a whole. The same thing was the case for the other side, the NFFA, as this film offered nothing new about them.
The film gave us little reason to care for these characters as they were just a means to an end and with it being a prequel, it was easy to look ahead of whatever was happening. Once the action finally got going, it was never particularly scary and got increasingly ridiculous to watch to the point of unbelievability. While it still featured over the top purgers, there wasn’t nearly enough over the top moments. Unfortunately, the story quickly devolved into a generic action film for whatever reason. Ultimately, you can’t help but roll your eyes.
The special effects also felt very cheap, from the action scenes to the fake-looking violence. Additionally, the acting was okay across the board, however, it simply fell victim to the mediocre script. The writing was lazy at best with cliche characters, bad or cringeworthy dialog, and a very contrived story. The biggest name here was Marisa Tomei as the doctor who orchestrated the purge but she was just a useless exposition machine.
Overall, this was bad horror film and an entry in a series that may have finally ran its course. It was a lazy, utterly ridiculous, and unnecessary prequel full of paper-thin cliche characters lacking any fun or subtlety whatsoever, forcing its agenda onto us to the point that it became suffocating. Fans of the series may find enough to enjoy here but it is no longer an escape.