Granted, it was 9:50 am on a sunny Tuesday morning, but there’s a reason I was the only person in the theater and it’s not because everyone’s already seen this movie. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Bride of Chucky, Mothra Vs. Godzilla, Scream 4. Those are just a few 4ths in horror movies that work well. The First Purge is, well, sort of the Jaws: The Revenge of 4th entries — only this is a prequel.
I could list prequels that, had they been the first films in their series, would likely have resulted in the sequels we’d been given, but we’re here to discuss the politically charged Blumhouse production. It’s written by James DeMonaco (writer of all previous Purge movies and the upcoming television show) and directed by Gerard McMurray.
While I do not believe movies are to blame for any individual’s actions, I do believe filmmakers have a responsibility in the way they choose to go about handling their métier. Jason Blum is one of many filmmakers who have chosen to shift his focus from horror to politics and in doing so, risks the potential of ruining the escapism in moviegoing. The First Purge is a shining example of that.
There are some pretty good performances in this movie from Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Mugga and Luna Lauren Velez. They’re great characters whose backstories run together. Unfortunately, the actors aren’t given much to work with as the script is complete garbage and their dialogue is perhaps the worst part of James DeMonaco’s writing.
Y’lan Noel’s character, Dmitri, is Staten Island’s street king. At least, that’s what he’s called several times throughout the film. He makes his money as a drug lord, which is one of the reasons Lex Scott Davis’ character Nya insists he stay away from her and her brother, Isaiah. It’s merely hinted at at first, but it’s obvious Nya’s troubled past has something to do with a seemingly secret relationship she had once shared with Dmitri.
Nya’s apartment neighbors and friends all head over to a church, expecting a quiet evening of prayer and peace. Not much of the acting was good in this film, unfortunately. Marisa Tomei plays her character, Dr. Updale, as if though she’s going through the motions, not really wanting to be apart of this film.
The timeline for this series is all over the place, and this film wrecks it further. Joivan Wade’s character has a Halloween (2018) poster on his wall, the music is all relatively new (and terrible, by the way) and the technology is what we have today. This film was meant to make a quick dollar and that’s it. It’s an enragingly ignorant movie that is filled with deliberate contrivances and horrible CGI blood and fire.
I personally think the idea of, “how could it have come to this?” works better than giving us every lame answer behind why a class of people do what they do. In a world in which we’re constantly screwed over by the government, why do we need more reasons?
I think the first three films say enough about it and, actually, Election Year could have made for a satisfying closing to the story, overall. Since change doesn’t come easily, the fourth installment could have been a follow-up to the events in Election Year, ending the event or restarting it. Instead, the creative team behind this decided to market their horrible looking USA series with this film.
The First Purge offers nothing new or exciting — it’s not even suspenseful or scary. The theater cranks the volume up nice and loud whenever a jump scare is about to happen, but a film that relies on being loud in order to be scary, isn’t a very good one.
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