The First Purge (2018)

Released: July 4, 2018. Directed by: Gerard McMurray. Starring: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade. Runtime: 1h 38 min.

I remember when I first heard about The Purge. I was excited because of its concept – but it ended up being disappointing. I thought its sequels (2014’s The Purge: Anarchy, 2016’s The Purge: Election Year) were stronger and added to the universe.

Now, we get a boring prequel with The First Purge, that shows the events of the very first Purge. The 12 hours of everything being legal implemented by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) and it’s the 12 hours of all crime being legalized is pitched as a psychological device to let Americans unleash their anger. It’s supposed to save the country, thought up by Marisa Tomei’s Dr. Updale (Tomei’s the film’s only household name and she’s fine, but isn’t heavily involved in the action).

The first experiment takes place on Staten Island and the government offers $5,000 to simply stay on the island on Purge Night. It’s a payday many just can’t pass up. Other incentive offered is a bigger payday for all the crimes you commit. Want to kill a lot of people? Then, wear special contact lenses that videotape your night and you’ll have a nice payday if you survive.

A lot of this film doesn’t work because we know the Purge’s purpose – combatting overpopulation and thinning out the herd, especially those on welfare so the government doesn’t have to take care of them. It’s uninteresting when they repeat the politics, and since they have to establish the new characters, it takes 25-30 minutes to get to any action.

The main characters are Nya (Lex Scott Davis) and her brother Isaiah (Joivan Wade), who live in a low-income apartment building on Staten Island. They have a good chemistry but they’re not memorable.

Her ex-boyfriend Dimitri (Y’Lan Noel, TV’s Insecure) is a drug kingpin who’s trying to protect his business from competing drugl ords who would use the Purge as an opportunity to take him out. He’s also protecting the citizens since the government wants to take out Staten Island’s black population. Dimitri’s a highlight who can be threatening but also sweet when it comes to Nya.

The First Purge in the review

Lex Scott Davis and Joivan Wade in The First Purge. (IMDb)

He’s heroic and has a likable charisma for a drug kingpin, and has a good presence in the action scenes. Noel has the most presence of the main cast in general. He is a reason the film feels more like an action movie than a horror film this go around, as some it’s more akin to The Raid: Redemption than a Purge movie.

It still maintains its jump scares, but these are stupid. The franchise has evolved a lot from its original conception of home invasion horror and commentary on human nature to this boring affair. It’s also bogged down by its commentary on American extremism – featuring characters dressed as KKK members and Nazis.

The franchise has never been subtle but its subtext feels really in your face this time, especially one of its main references to Donald Trump – a Purger that hangs out in the sewers that traps Nya and grabs her by the pussy. If the action isn’t a clear enough reference, she then runs away calling him a “pussy grabbing motherf–.”

Also problematic are the film’s villains. The masks are toned down this time, but because of the Purgers’ lack of creativity. The Staten Island purgers are boring – but perhaps this is because in The Purge the participants had eight years to perfect their killing style.

The more creative Purgers are silly, from a pair of old women, accompanied by the Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip” whenever they’re on screen, who rig stuffed animals with explosives, to the film’s main antagonist Skeletor (Rotimi Paul). He’s a junkie and a psychopath who seems to be the only one who really wants to purge.

He’s over the top in every sense of the word, spitting all over the place as he talks. He’s totally crazy and Paul goes completely into the role. The character’s dumb– just because of his over-the-top nature – but he’s also the most memorable villain since Rhys Wakefield’s Polite Leader of the original film. Skeletor just might be the only thing I remember about this bad prequel.

Score: 40/100

Recap of June’s Theatrical Releases

I saw six out of the nine major theatrical releases of June. I still plan on seeing the following from the month of June, in alphabetical order: “Berberian Sound Studio”, “The Bling Ring”, “Byzantium”, “The Internship”, “Maniac”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Song for Marion”, “Syrup” (because I love Brittany Snow), “Violet & Daisy”, White House Down”. Considering that the lowest score of June’s new releases was 50 out of 100 (surprisingly “awarded” to “Man of Steel”), it was hardly a bad month for movies. Here’s the ranking of the June’s releases from best to worst, with a blurb from each of my reviews.

This is the End (6/12)

This is the End (6/12) [My review]

“This is an insanely funny movie. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy.” 91/100. This was my fourth most anticipated movie of June, and it exceeded expectations, and it’s currently my favourite movie of the year thus far. 

IMDb Score: 7.9/10Rotten Tomatoes Critics: 7/10RT Audience: 8/10.

Monsters University (6/21)

Monsters University (6/21) [My review]

“I will always cherish this fantastic film. I will always watch this with a big smile on my face. This is an impressive prequel to “Monsters, Inc.”, and an impressive Pixar movie.” 90/100. This was my most anticipated movie of June, and it truly satisfied.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10RTC: 6.7/10; RTA: 8.4/10.

World War Z (6/21)

World War Z (6/21) [My review]

“The story’s a good one, as far as ‘find the cure’ movies go. Since I have not read the book, I cannot comment on any similarities or big differences. All I can say is, it’s a story that plays well on the screen. I like that Drew Goddard has a hand in the screenplay; because he has talent. It’s a traditional, but very enjoyable ‘find the cure’ type of film.” 75/100. This was my tenth most anticipated movie of June, so it really impressed. 

IMDb Score: 7.3/10RTC: 6.2/10RTA: 7.6/10.

The Heat (6/28)

The Heat (6/28) [My review]

“The humour is raunchy as hell, but usually funny as hell. When I wasn’t laughing at the jokes, I was at least smirking a little. When it isn’t being hilarious, the likeable chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy really carries it along. The movie balances out to a fun, predictable, but hysterical time at the movies.” 75/100. This was my seventh most anticipated movie of June, so it did satisfy. 

IMDb Score: 7.1/10RTC: 6.0/10; RTA: 8.0/10.

The Purge (6/7)

The Purge (6/7) [My review]

“The concept helps make this movie memorable. However, this rushed home invasion flick/intriguing social commentary ends up being incredibly average. It’s disappointing, and while it has some worthwhile menacing villains, it’s the latest movie to the Great Concept, Poor Execution category.” 57/100. This was my third most anticipated movie of June, so it was truly disappointing.

IMDb Score: 5.6/10; RTC: 5.1/10; RTA: 6.0/10.

Man of Steel (6/14)

Man of Steel (6/14) [My review]

“I do not appreciate the constant changes in tone throughout the feature. It goes from big, stupid action to character-driven drama that feels real. It becomes bothersome quickly, and it does not make for effective storytelling.” 50/100. This was my second most anticipated movie of June, so it was a big let-down.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10; RTC: 6.3/10RTA: 8.0.

Here are some statistics: 

IMDb Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.9), 2. “Man of Steel” (7.8), 2. “Monsters University” (7.8), 4. “World War Z” (7.3), 5. “The Heat” (7.1), 6. “The Purge” (5.6). Average score: 7.25/10. 

RT Critics Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.0), 2. “Monsters University” (6.7), 3. “Man of Steel” (6.3), 4. “World War Z” (6.2), 5. “The Heat” (6.0), “The Purge” (5.1). Average score: 6.21/10. 

RT Audience Ranking: 1. “Monsters University” (8.4), 2. “The Heat” (8.0), 2. “Man of Steel” (8.0), 2. “This is the End” (8.0), 5. “World War Z” (7.6), 6. “The Purge” (6.0). Average score: 7.66/10.

My Average score: 73/100. (Adjusted [excluding lowest grade]: 77.6/100.)

What movies did you enjoy out of June’s releases, and which ones did you hate? There were a total six votes in my Most Anticipated Movies of June poll (4 to “Man of Steel”, 1 to “This is the End”, and 1 to “Monsters University”, which was my vote). Did your most anticipated movie satisfy or disappoint the hell out of you? Let me know in the comments!

Also: I’ll be posting my Best of the Year So Far article sometime this weekend or early next week. Stay tuned! 

 

The Purge (2013)

The PurgeRelease Date: June 7, 2013

Director: James DeMonaco

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder

Runtime: 85 min

Tagline: Survive the Night

The year is 2022. America’s economy is flourishing, the unemployment rate is at 1%, and crime is almost non-existent. Except for one night a year; for twelve hours, all crime, including murder, is legal. The police cannot be called. I guess you could call them, but no one’s going to respond. The Annual Purge lets the American people release their inner beast, or let the tiger out of the cage, if you will.

This is the story of one family during the unforgettable Annual Purge of the eerily not-so-distant future, 2022. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) sells security systems for a living, and his family is living the American dream. They settle in for the night, all cozy in an apparently impenetrable fortress. Or so they think. The son, Charlie (Max Burkholder, that kid from Daddy Day Care who says, “I missed!”), still forming his own opinion on the Purge, assists a helpless man outside by letting him into his home. Yeah, things are going to turn out just hunky-dory for you when you do a stupid thing like that.

A small mob of scholarly young folk wearing masks comes to their door, asking for the so-called “grotesque swine” to be delivered to them within the hour, or they’ll come into the house and kill the entire family. Now, the Sandins must make a choice: Keep their morals intact and fight, or give up the stranger and become the monsters from whom they hide.

The Purge has one of the most intriguing horror movie concept in quite some time. The movie just cannot do much with it. It tries to make a point using a successful, horror/thriller formula. The thought-provoking movie challenges one’s inner morals. It isn’t more than that. It’s partly a social commentary of what America might one day never become, and a commentary on the human race’s obsession with violence; and the fact that these people would rather bash in someone’s head to let off steam, instead of hitting a watermelon or a piñata.

It’s also a rushed home invasion horror flick. None of these characters are particularly likeable. The daughter is really just doing her own thing. She’s way out of the loop, she doesn’t know what’s going around the house, which really doesn’t reflect well on the rest of the family. The father, James, is a security system salesman who’s rather unlikeable. He’s the one calling the shots for the family. Mary (Lena Headey) is easily the most likeable character, mostly because she has a strong hold on her morals, and she will frustrate you the least. The most frustrating character of all is Charlie. He is one of the stupidest characters you’ll ever see in a horror movie, and that’s saying something. He is still forming his opinion about The Purge (as he’s supposed to be around 14 years old), and he will frustrate you a countless amount of times, and taint one’s enjoyment. (Oh, if you shine a flashlight all over the room, no one will see the light from underneath the door. Idiot.) His character represents the minority of people, the ones who do not support The Purge. The morals of this family clashes with the apparent norm of this futuristic society, that it’s all right to commit all the crimes one can, because there really isn’t anyone stopping you. And it also brings about class warfare. If you can afford the protection, that’s better for you. It kind-of makes me think this mirrors the two-tier health care system, because the rich are better off. If one can afford the protection, they probably won’t die; if one can’t afford protection, they’re screwed.

The Purge party of scholars led by a character called Polite Leader (Rhys Wakefield sporting an eerie smile) only want their target for their Annual Purge, but now I’m thinking they just want to kill as many people as they can muster. Only seconds after requesting their target, they cut the power to the Sandin home; making it that much harder for the Sandin’s to actually acquire the intruder, whose character name is Bloody Stranger. There are a few other problems with this group… What’s the point of wearing masks if all crimes are legal? They must be trying to be scarier, since they really are only apparently smart hooligans. (See, there might be a point to it – because nerds with machetes really aren’t so terrifying. Right?) These weirdos are also knocking on all the windows, swinging on swings, making threatening motions, staring into the cameras all weird, making menacing faces… Because that isn’t distracting enough when you’re trying to find someone with the power out, right?

The film has a bland, 10-minute introduction; a 40-minute suspenseful build-up; and a meager 25-minute (or so) pay-off. The first ten minutes are bland, at best; mostly because there’s simply a lot of insincere smiling and traditional, “Have a safe night, okay?” There’s a large focus on the social commentary, and a miniature one on the actual home invasion. Movie-goers will be buying tickets to the home invasion aspect; and there’s hardly enough of it. Once one digs underneath its original and intriguing concept, they will find The Strangers set in the year 2022. The masks, the themes, the atmosphere, and some of the scenes are similar. It seems we have received a sequel to The Strangers after all. Beneath the surface, this plays out like every other horror movie. It’s a true disappointment.

The movie’s suspenseful, but rarely scary. It is billed as a sci-fi horror/thriller flick, not a suspense movie; so that’s a true issue. You’ll jump two or three times, maybe. The concept is scary, because you’d be anxious enough waiting the eight minutes for the cops to appear; and in this situation, they’re not going to show. The masks are creepy, but not nearly as creepy as an insane, well-dressed Polite Leader with a chilling grin. Rhys Wakefield rocks the role, and he’s certainly the most memorable thing about this low-budget horror flick. He seems ecstatic that he might be able to kill a whole family, and not just the party’s target. He’s very menacing. The only other thing that is likely to haunt your dreams is an eerie Chucky-esque doll/camera/radio-controlled car contraption controlled by Charlie. Other than those two things, most of the scary-ish things about this movie left my mind – and I slept like a baby. This hardly leaves a lasting impression, and since I’m a paranoid person; by God, horror movies need to keep me up at night to receive a great grade.

The concept helps make this memorable. The general movie only ends up being incredibly average. The movie also falls victim to countless, frustrating clichés. This will leave a lot of movie-goers disappointed. Rhys Wakefield is the only other thing that makes this worthwhile at all; but this is still the latest movie to be added to the Great Concept, Poor Execution category.

57/100