The first reviews are in for The First Purge, the latest in the dystopian horror movie franchise.
The film serves as a prequel to the other movies in the series, exploring the events that led up to the very first purge. The franchise’s basis is an annual day where all crime is legal for 12 hours.
The First Purge hit cinemas in the UK today (July 4) and critics’ reactions so far have been divisive. The Telegraph‘s Robbie Collins said “the film has the trick down pat of chilling you with a semi-recognisable haunting image or jab of inflammatory rhetoric,” referring to its use of topical imagery like Black Lives Matter protests and Tiki torch-wielding white supremacists. Collins added: “The First Purge is as visually hair-raising as its predecessors.”
The New York Times‘ Jeannette Catsoulis noted: “Even the most ardent fan [of the franchise] could find its bluntness uncomfortably timely: In our build-that-wall moment, a story about a government-sponsored plan to cull poor minorities feels less like political satire than current-affairs commentary.”
Slate‘s Inkoo Kang said: “I’d be hard-pressed to think of another movie this year that better conveys the disbelief that this what America has come to.” Kang added of the film’s steps to diversify the cast: “Though the series has been largely celebrated for the diversity of its casts, it’s a bit irritating that the only people who thus far afforded the opportunity to feel and act on their trauma are the grieving white characters […] Like too many expressions of rage, The Purge is powerful but its articulation is careless.”
The film was received less favourably at other outlets though, including Rolling Stone, whose David Fear wrote: “Once you’ve seen what actual federal fearmongering disguised as policy looks like and witnessed real-life Nazi cosplay on the streets of America end in bloodshed and fatalities, it’s tougher to view such things as entertainment, cautionary or otherwise.”
He went on to note that, as a prequel, the movie shows where “the narrative’s ‘civility’ starts to erode and where that leads.” “You’re always aware that you’re watching a B-movie narrative,” he added. “You have to keep reminding yourself that it’s a work of fiction.”
The Hollywood Reporter‘s John DeFore was similarly unimpressed. He compared one scene to one of “2011’s vastly superior Attack the Block, where low-income Brits fend off their own invading army and manage to say something about race and class while they’re at it.” Later, he added “The First Purge really wants to get credit for being on the right side of the class war”, but ends up cheapening “real world terrors.”