The Netflix Violent Sci-Fi Thriller Doesn’t Pull Any Punches

By Robert Scucci | Published

the first purge

The Purge franchise took the home invasion genre to a whole new level when Blumhouse Productions started toying with the concept in 2013. In the first Purge film, we learn about the annual event that allows American citizens to engage in illegal activities, including murder, as a way to thin out the herd. 2018’s The First Purge, which serves as a prequel, provides an alarming amount of insight into how the annual 12-hour event came to be. 

The First Purge Streaming On Netflix

the first purge

The First Purge lays all of its cards on the table, and brings us to Staten Island after the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) become the most powerful political party in the United States. Facing record-high unemployment, a housing crisis, and rising inflation, the NFFA decides to implement the first Purge under the guidance of Dr. May Updale, their chief sociologist and architect. And the premise is simple: to prove that an annual Purge will fix the economy and eliminate instances of crime throughout the rest of the calendar year. 

Though The Purge and its subsequent sequels show us that the annual experiment was a resounding success, The First Purge reveals that the initiative was established under false pretenses. 

Business As Usual

the first purge

As the NFFA gears up to test the experiment, they offer Staten Island residents $5,000 to stay within the borough’s borders. If they survive the first Purge, they will receive additional compensation for participating. Each willing participant has to wear contact lenses to monitor their every move, as well as an implanted tracking device to let the NFFA know that they’re not trying to leave the island

To the NFFA’s disappointment, they realize that the first Purge is an absolute failure. The main takeaway is that those with a propensity for violence will carry on as usual regardless of whether a 12-hour Purge is in place or not. Other willing participants who don’t feel a natural inclination to resort to murder would rather do copious amounts of drugs and party in the streets by throwing “Purge parties.” 

The Purge Isn’t What It Seems

the first purge

When a violent sociopath known as Skeletor commits the first murder, the footage goes viral. But it’s not enough to prove the concept, so the NFFA takes extreme measures. It’s at this point in The First Purge that Updale notices a disproportionate amount of violent crimes committed by masked mercenaries.

It quickly becomes apparent that the NFFA will move forward with their initiative regardless of the results by padding the numbers. 

The Message

Underneath the veneer of extreme violence found in The First Purge, its final message leaves very little room for open-ended interpretation. Using media manipulation as its primary vehicle for social commentary, the film shows us the dangers of government overreach, and how our best interests aren’t necessarily in line with those who are leading us. 

Reception To The First Purge

The First Purge was a commercial success upon its theatrical release, and earned an impressive $137 million against its reported budget of $13 million. On the critical front, it received mixed reviews, garnering a 55 percent critical score against a 27 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. While most of the film’s criticism involved its use of flat, one-dimensional characters, the film’s messaging was heard loud and clear and praised for being done so efficiently. 

At the end of the day, The First Purge plays out like a solid B-movie, and is currently available for streaming on Netflix. If you’re a fan of the franchise, you won’t be disappointed by this installment.