The latest addition to the Purge series is actually what the franchise needed
Photo courtesy of IMDb | Online Editor Trever McKenzie thinks The First Purge brought the series exactly where it needed to go with its humor and strong characters. He also praised the wonderful tension in all of the characters’ relationships.
Admittedly, the Purge series was never my favorite after the second and third movies completely ruined the franchise. It felt like a reset was necessary, and The First Purge delivered exactly what the series needed by exploring the origin of the government-sponsored murder fest.
What the movie does very well is subvert expectations where necessary. I must spoil the movie to talk about how good it is, so spoiler warning. What I expected from the movie was not at all what I got. First, they subverted exactly what everyone was thinking when the Purge began. We all expected immediate death and violence. Yet… we got a block party. I’m dead serious. The citizens of Staten Island held a block party. I was completely caught off guard, but the choice made sense and I liked it so much more than if everyone had gone right toward killing, which leads me to my next point.
The deaths had so much more impact because there were fewer of them. The tighter focus on specific characters garnered far more sympathy from me because their personalities were highlighted more. There were about seven characters with strong personalities, and the rest were side-characters who were equally engaging. There didn’t feel like a single wasted character in this movie, and you knew exactly where you stood with them the minute they were on screen. I attribute this both to the excellent dialogue and the talented actors. Both the audience and I verbally expressed dismay when certain characters were killed off and cheered when we finally got to see the main five characters defend themselves successfully from the government-planted murderers.
The third thing the movie did right was have comedy. I cannot express with enough gusto how much comedy improves a horror movie. Any horror movie that takes itself too seriously is going to bore the audience to the bad kind of death. The First Purge had a healthy mix of humor and horror throughout, primarily led by actress Mugga’s sassy portrayal of Dolores. The main characters had plenty of comedic moments as well and lots of tension building that resulted in non-violent but hilarious payoffs.
There’s great tension between siblings Nya (Lex Scott Davis) and Isaiah (Joivan Wade) to drive conflict but not overshadow the tender care and love they share for each other.
There’s a surprising, well-written relationship rebuild plot between Nya and Dmitri (Y’lan Noel), her gang leading ex-boyfriend (it doesn’t result in them getting back together, which was another welcomed subversion). There was even a government conspiracy subplot that made sense led by actress Marisa Tomei’s character. That barely scratches the surface of some of the amazing characters, like the psychotic druggie Skeletor (Rotimi Paul).
Director Gerard McMurray and writer James DeMonaco really pushed this movie where it needed to go. I wouldn’t call The First Purge camp, but I would absolutely call it a movie to watch. More importantly, it adds incredibly important context to the Purge series and has a powerful leading cast that carries the entire movie on their shoulders with Atlas-like professionalism. I’m excited to see where The Purge goes next, if they don’t choose to end on this high note.
By: Trever McKenzie | Online Editor