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article imageReview: ‘The First Purge’ gets at the heart of the horror Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 7, 2018 in Entertainment
‘The First Purge’ shows the start of this horrific American tradition of death and corruption in a film that is atmospheric and unsettling.
According to this franchise, in the near future the United States will condone one night of complete lawlessness. For 12 hours, every American citizen has the right to do whatever they want, including rape, murder and steal. But how could such a heinous event be permitted, let alone supported, by not only the people but their government? We’ve seen a family held hostage in their home, people wandering the streets in masks brutally killing anyone they encounter, disgruntled employees taking revenge on their bosses… and armed military units using the event as cover for the genocide of hundreds of lower income citizens. The First Purge is the story of how it all began.
Unemployment is at an all-time high, the stock market is at an all-time low and people are rioting for a solution. Amidst the discord, a new political party rises – The New Founding Fathers of America. Their promise of change through violence is quickly lauded and they’re elected to power. However, “Purge Night” wasn’t immediately rolled out nationally; it started with “The Experiment” on Staten Island, which also happens to be primarily populated by lower income communities. Residents willing to stay are assessed for their likeliness to participate and generously compensated, especially if they partake. The siren sounds and the country anxiously watches to see if the test is a success or failure — though the definition of each varies, depending on who you ask.
This is the best film of the franchise as it combines the horror of the situation with ghoulish terror and extreme violence. Even though the attempts at jump scares are generally ineffective, the overall feel of the movie is frightening. A very strategic plot device results in glowing eyes staring from the darkness, which is incredibly alarming and used to great effect. It also emphasizes the threat that lurks around every corner by having the perpetrators wear disturbing masks and ride around as mobile killing units. And of all the characters to strike fear in people’s hearts, a couple of older women rise to the occasion with their disturbing collection of weaponized toys. Conversely, the fighting spirit of another supporting personality (Mugga) allows the occasional break from the otherwise ever-present tension.
The subplot is about a local drug lord, Demetri (Y'lan Noel), who doesn’t see the anarchy as an opportunity, but rather something of which to be suspicious. When it’s discovered the area needs protection from more than just a few bloodthirsty neighbours, Demetri and his crew are the only ones equipped to provide it. The irony, of course, is that he’s one of the elements that tears down the community by feeding its addictions and now he’s the only one in a position to save it.
The only significant continuity issue that arises from this picture relates to one of the key discoveries, which is also a major finding in one of the movies that occurs later. One would think if this particular problem was an issue since year one that people would have been more inclined to object or even prepare for it — evidence or not. It’s not just a conspiracy theory if enough people stood witness to the event. And yet years later, The Purge continues mostly uninterrupted.
In any case, this film is the most effective depiction of what such a night might be comprised of, even with its archetypal prince rescuing the princess in the tower story.
Director: Gerard McMurray
Starring: Y'lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis and Joivan Wade
More about The First Purge, Marisa tomei, Y'lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade
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