By The Nerdling
The Purge franchise, created by James DeMonaco, has endeavored to join the ranks of other sociopolitical horror films of the past such as They Live, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Rosemary’s Baby, and the most recent Get Out. The first movie was a standard home invasion flick with an underlying message of American’s love of violence and socioeconomic disparities. The subsequent films made those themes front and center (read more about that here) while still being wrapped up in the blanket of B-movie entertainment.
This time around, the Gerard McMurray helmed prequel approaches current times with all the delicacy of a sledgehammer and maybe not a moment too soon. While the previous films, all directed by DeMonaco, were not so subtle in their anti NRA and corporate capitalism messages mixed in with class warfare commentary, The First Purge seems hell-bent on linking Trump and his most violent supporters to the films antagonists.
Set in a parallel world a few years after the New Founding Fathers of America take possession of the highest office of the land (a year is not given, but it is easy to assume 2018), the NFFA are touting a new solution to the country’s financial problems. Using shoddy research done by a phycologist, Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei), the NFFA have proposed a new program where all laws are suspended for 12-hours so citizens can release their pent-up aggressions. Staten Island is chosen for to be the test subjects since it is the most isolated burrow in New York City. To ensure there will be plenty of persons available to participate, the NFFA offers anyone willing to stay $5,000 with a pay scale increase if they choose to “purge”. The more the person participates, the more they are paid.
Local activist and community organizer, Nya (Lex Scott Davis) calls out the incentive program for what it is, a way to keep the poor and desperate around to fall victim to the purge. She remains in on the island to organize church vigil for those who stay for the money but are unwilling to participate. Her younger brother, Isaiah (Jovian Wade) also remains, unbeknownst to Nya, to take revenge on Skeletor a local crack head (Rotimi Paul) who embarrassed Isaiah in front of his drug dealer pals. Also staying behind is Nya’s ex-boyfriend, Dmitri (Y’lan Noel), a drug kingpin with a heart of gold.
The night starts off much quieter than the NFFA and Updale expected. Much of the citizens have decided to throw a large block-party in celebration of no police with only small acts of looting and the occasional murder by Skeletor looking to score cash. What Dr. Updale realizes way too late is the NFFA are using her research as an excuse to systematically massacre the poor and working class so the government does not have to spend money supporting these communities. In hopes of a successful test, the NFFA had distributed guns and explosives to gang members days before and organized killing squads on standby just in case. They unleashed the mercenaries upon the poor neighborhoods and send the footage from people’s contact lens cameras to the press to show the experiment is a success.
The First Purge uses little to no restrain on linking the NFFA to Trump, the current state of the GOP, and the extremists who support them. The movie’s prologue use images of Charleville, white-supremacist rallies, BLM protests, and mass shootings to illustrate why the people would elect the NFFA. News casters comment on the NRA’s heavy support of the newest political party. At one-point Nya calls a man who attempts to sexually assault her a “pussy grabbing mother-f@cker”, making reference to the infamous Access Hollywood tape. After taking down a kill squad, Dmitri and his right-hand man comment on how their attackers are Russians. Several of the squads are dressed as the KKK and cops, their uniforms drenched in blood as they run down the black and brown citizens of Staten Island. Others are dressed in Nazi-esq garbs. Their raid through a poor housing community conjures images of Schindler’s List when the Gestapo are evacuating the ghettos, executing people as they go. Even the flag of the NFFA has a Nazi-esq feel to it.
The role of the media in spreading misinformation or sensationalism is not spared here. The news casters report on the violence of the night with barely concealed excited tones buried in their somber warnings of graphic images. I half expected a neon-haired Stanly Tucci to show up and offer a play-by-play analysis.
While this movie is all about the evils of fascist governments, it does offer an interesting commentary on how Americans might genuinely react to the idea of a Purge Night. Before the chaos is unleashed, most people are happy to party. The Id unleash is centered around the concept of outwardly displaying acts of pleasure than violence. People want to indulge in drugs and public acts of sex, free from repercussions. It feels like a moment of hope before the shit-storm.
This Frist Purge spares few from its violent wrath taking on Trump, his supporters, the GOP, and the media in a way that is very reminiscent of Blaxploitation movies of the 70’s. All of the movie’s heroes are Latinix or African American while the villains are Anglo members of the “man”. Watching this movie is almost like participating in a cathartic exercise as groups of black and brown Americans rise up against fascism. No wonder the Fox News-lite outlet, The Daily Caller, is so upset about it.
The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.