The First Purge, an American tradition?

THERE’s something secretly horrifying in the concept behind The First Purge, already a violent movie.  And, it could just happen.

In case this franchise is new to you, it’s based on a dystopian world premise, and the first movie, The Purge, was a killer 2013 start where in a not-too-distant future, people in the US – with overcrowded prisons, can commit all crimes for 12 hours in a year. The police can’t be called. Hospitals suspend help. It’s one night when the citizenry regulates itself without thought of punishment  And the rest of the year, they are happy, I guess!

So, in the first movie, it’s a microscopic look at how one family wrestles with the decision of who they will become on this night. When an intruder breaks into James Sandin’s (Ethan Hawke) gated community during the yearly lockdown, he begins a sequence of events that threatens to tear a family apart. Now, it is up to James, his wife, Mary (Lena Headey), and their kids to make it through the night without turning into the monsters from whom they hide.

The second movie was The Purge: Anarchy, in 2014, where three groups of people intertwine and are left stranded in the streets of Los Angeles on Purge Night, trying to survive the chaos that occurs.

One groups is a husband and wife, driving home, when their car breaks down just as the Purge starts. Elsewhere, a police sergeant goes into the streets to get revenge on the man who killed his son, and lastly, a mother and daughter run from their home after assailants destroy it. The five people meet as the 12 hours nears the end.

In 2016, we got The Purge: Election Year. Set 17 years after the first Purge, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) recalls stopping himself from a regrettable act of revenge on Purge Night. Now serving as head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), his mission is to protect her in a run for president and survive the annual ritual that targets the poor and innocent. But when a betrayal forces them onto the streets of Washngton D.C. on the one night when no help is available, they must stay alive until dawn…or both be sacrificed for their sins against the state.

Written and directed by James DeMonaco, it’s all a chilling twist on home invasion. The dude was probably a video-game nerd, from how the stories are envisioned.

Now, we have the start of it all in The First Purge. Why would the US allow for such a terrible, strange annual event?

We learn how it was originally called The Experiment, a social test dreamed up by Dr May Updale (Marisa Tomei) who had a thesis premise that a night of lawlessness will help cleanse a nation of its pent-up fury – and in the process, drive down the crime rate to a single-digit percentage.

“It is a psychological device. If we want to save our country, we must release all our anger in one night,” she explains her test.

Funded by a right-wing political group called the New Founding Fathers, (and why not them, eh?!), she does a test run in Staten Island, New York.

In the 19th century, Staten Island was where the immigrants would land and go through the screenings before entering the US. Later, the immigrants went to Elllis Island.

While Staten Island is mainly made up of Europeans, the movie shows a large, poor, black population as well, who are the main targets of this Purge night.

Compared to the first 3 movies with their main focus on people stories, this First Purge offers more of the background to this social experiment, and a lot of violence.

So, the targeted people of this test are the blacks who are offered money to take part. As one resident says: “Do these people think they can be gangsters?”

One drug boss, Dmitri (Y’Lan Noel), thinks rival gangs will use the night as an opportunity to knock him off his perch. He’s so right, and they use sex to boot.

Ah, but he has his ex-lover Nya (Lex Scott Davis) ready for that, verbally at least. Then there is Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) whose deranged chewing killer is fantastically crazy.

Okay, the people stories are not great. It’s the sum of the whole that’s exciting.

For one, as the Purge starts, the people are partying in the streets, with government-issue tinted lenses to boot.

Dr Updale, and some government guy, watches the night unfolding in some control room which images are coming in from those tinted lenses, and she says that the one factor they didn’t put in was… the people themselves.

Anyway, the government sends in mercenaries – mainly white guys and the Ku Klux Klan even – to kill those poor blacks.

The Purge, from 2013 to today, is a B-movie franchise with some satire, but man, it’s a ride that can tickle the brain.

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