The First Purge

Jul 9, 2018

Beware no punishment for crime; the natives will respond badly.

The First Purge

Grade: C+

Director: Gerard McMurray (Burning Sands)

Screenplay: James DeMonaco (The Purge)

Cast: Y’lan Noel (Insecure), Lex Scott Davis (Superfly)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 38 min

by John DeSando

No doubt The First Purge, prequel to The Purge, takes allegory to its limits whereby it just misses being a straight commentary on the ills of a modern racist and classist society. I am the first to enjoy the metaphorical parallels of any horror film, but this one is bent on pushing home without subtlety the evils of white, totalitarian governments.

For 12 hours, the US is a punishment-free land, a plan seemingly devised by psychologists to release anger in the populace and to thin out the ranks of the underclass. Crime never seemed so undesirable as there is no punishment to give it an edge or satisfaction in pulling it off and eluding justice. Yet, somehow, the creeps finally emerge to blow away troublesome voters and tiresome do gooders.

However, it is a chance for gangs to eliminate each other and the authorities to manipulate the proceedings to give a favorable outcome to obvious racist and class discrimination. The major set is in a project on Staten Island, peopled by mostly blacks and some Latinos.  The violence and bad stuff is aimed at them, and the resistance is a tribute to their abilities to bond and fight the establishment.

If you mated A Clockwork Orange with any mediocre dystopian production, beyond the few layers of political meaning, The First Purge is a cautionary tale about the need for brotherhood and the dangers of an authoritarian regime spreading propaganda about working for the good of the people. Seems to me I’ve heard that song before.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at