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Why The First Purge Will Blow You Away

In a genre where supernatural threats such as ghosts and monsters run rampant, there has always been something rather unique about The Purge franchise, which plays upon real-world fears to bring the horror. Sure, the idea that murder could be legalized for one night each year sounded rather preposterous back when James DeMonaco first wrote The Purge in 2013, but times have changed. In this current political climate, the future has become more uncertain than ever, lending The Purge and it's dystopian world an unsettling kind of realism that stays with audiences long after the credits roll.

Blumhouse and Universal Pictures have teamed up this year to release the fourth installment in The Purge franchise, confusingly titled The First Purge. Chronologically, The First Purge takes place before the rest of the series, explaining how the government first turned to such extreme measures in order to keep the peace. Join us as we reveal everything you need to know about The First Purge and why it will blow horror fans away this summer while adding new depth to one of the most successful horror franchises out there today.

The movie one-sheet is surprisingly topical

Back when The Purge: Election Year was released in 2016, James DeMonaco and his team decided to thematically tie the franchise's third instalment with the real life U.S. presidential election that took place in the same year. Boasting the tagline "Keep America Great," The Purge: Election Year deliberately made some unsubtle nods to Donald Trump and his political career, something that The First Purge will continue in an even more explicit fashion.  

The initial poster for The First Purge is stunning in its simplicity, depicting the same red hat that Trump used prominently throughout his presidential campaign. However, instead of featuring the slogan "Make America Great Again," the hat featured in the poster has the film's title emblazoned across the front instead. This move has the potential to alienate fans depending on their political viewpoint, but it's hard to deny that this is bold marketing.

In fact, whatever your political leanings may be, it's fascinating to see a mainstream horror movie promoted with such brazen social commentary. For decades now, the horror and thriller genres have often reflected societal concerns, depicting serious issues in metaphorical terms in movies like Dawn of the Dead or Get Out, but few have done so in such explicit terms, which is why it's brave and unusual to see The First Purge tackle current politics this way.

The first teaser nails its satirical tone

Following the release of the poster, promotion for The First Purge continued in a similarly satirical vein when the first teaser trailer appeared online to coincide with Trump's State of the Union speech on January 31, 2018. Created with the same kind of aesthetic seen in political television ads, the trailer gives nothing about the film away, instead lampooning campaign promotions with a voiceover that explains how purging will keep America great.

Playing on nationalist pride, the teaser enlists a folksy narrator to use a variety of inspirational catchphrases that will persuade the American public to endorse the first government-sanctioned purge, complete with all of the patriotic imagery that you could ever imagine. Fireworks over the Statue of Liberty, Little League Baseball, stars and stripes blowing in the wind. Nothing is too much or too extreme for The First Purge.

While there's no creepy masks or overt horror in the promo, marketing for The First Purge has arguably proven itself to be more unsettling than any other trailer from the franchise because of the way it subverts traditional Americana in sinister ways. Lines such as "You are the lifeblood of the nation, and your rights as Americans must be safeguarded" take on new meaning for fans who know where the franchise is heading.

The release date couldn't be more perfect

After The Purge was first released on June 7 in 2013, both of the sequels were released in July of 2014 and 2016 respectively, capitalizing on the nationalistic themes of the franchise. However, none of the films released in the series so far have actually hit cinemas on July 4 — until now.

While the purge itself takes place on March 21 and 22, releasing The First Purge on Independence Day instead is a stroke of genius from the marketing team. After all, the entire premise of the franchise revolves around the extreme measures that have been taken to improve life for all Americans, and what better day to celebrate that than on our day of independence?

An acclaimed filmmaker is stepping into the director's chair

For the first time since The Purge franchise began in 2013, series creator James DeMonaco has stepped down from the director's chair and handed the reins over to Gerard McMurray, who first found fame producing Sundance winner Fruitvale Station before directing the college hazing drama Burning Sands.  

At first glance, it might seem as though McMurray doesn't have the experience to tackle a popular horror franchise like The Purge. After all, both of the films that he's known for most are more dramatic than scary, but when you take into account that these stories contain violence of a realistic and unsettling nature, it soon becomes easy to see why McMurray was chosen to take over from DeMonaco.

Scoring 94% and 84% on Rotten Tomatoes respectively, Fruitvale Station and Burning Sands were both celebrated by critics for their biting social commentary and unflinching exploration of everyday violence. If McMurray is given the freedom to tackle these themes in the same way he's done before, then The First Purge could turn out to be the most disturbing and realistic chapter of the franchise yet.

Series creator James DeMonaco will ensure franchise consistency

Gerard McMurray may bring some impressive credentials to the franchise, but die-hard fans who have stuck with The Purge since the beginning may worry that the story could lose its way without series creator James DeMonaco behind the camera. While it's likely that McMurray will bring something fresh and new to The Purge movies now that he's been enlisted to direct, loyal audiences need not worry too much about consistency; DeMonaco is still involved in both a script writing and producing capacity.

Just like he did for every other film in the franchise, DeMonaco wrote the script for The First Purge on his own, ensuring that the overall tone and aesthetic of the series will remain intact. This is especially important now that the franchise is diving back into the history of The Purge. 

There's also something rather fitting about the way that DeMonaco has handed the latest film in the series over to a relative newcomer since The Purge was also his second directing gig following a little-seen movie called Little New York.

The sequels continue to improve upon the original

It's no secret that movie franchises are regularly stretched out for longer than necessary. As a result of this, sequels often represent a dip in both quality and box office earnings, leading to franchise fatigue that spells the end for stories that once felt fresh and new. However, The Purge has somehow managed to circumvent these issues for the most part, earning more and more fans with the release of each subsequent installment.

With a combined budget of just $22 million, The Purge franchise has grossed a total of over $300 million worldwide, and that number may rise dramatically following the release of The First Purge – the last chapter earned the highest box office earnings in the franchise.

Fortunately, this upward trend of success hasn't been blighted by a downward shift in quality. While none of the films are particularly loved by critics as a whole, both The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year scored a higher rating than the first film on Rotten Tomatoes, earning 56% and 53% respectively. Yes, the second sequel experienced a small dip compared to the first sequel, but there's really no reason to expect The Last Purge to fail while Blumhouse continues to dominate the box office.

The Last Purge opens the franchise up to new possibilities

After finding success with two sequels, the franchise will now dive into the history of the series in The Last Purge, revealing exactly how the government kick-started this form of control in the first place. Spoilers aside, anyone who watched The Purge: Election Year to the end will understand that a prequel was the only possible step that made sense for the series moving forward.

While The Last Purge will need to cohere logically with the films that chronologically take place later, approaching the story via a prequel will also free up James DeMonaco's script in some ways. Now that he's no longer encumbered by what's happened before, DeMonaco can take the franchise in any direction he sees fit. Venturing into the back story of the series will allow DeMonaco to potentially create more prequels that fill in the gaps between The Last Purge and The Purge assuming that the demand is still there. DeMonaco and his team could even draw inspiration from the likes of Rec 2 and create a "side-quel" that explores events that we've already seen in previous installments but from a different perspective. Imagine revisiting the events of the first Purge movie from the eyes of a new character or even someone we've met before, such as the invaders who hold the Sandin family hostage.

Fans Will Finally Learn How The Purge Began

Originally titled The Purge: The Island, the upcoming prequel will be set on New York City's Staten Island, but what we don't know still is why this particular location was chosen or how the purge was expanded into a nationwide initiative.

When The Purge was first released back in 2013, the idea that the American government would legalize all crime for one night in order to vent the public's aggression was something that seemed fascinating, yet ultimately far fetched. Fast forward to 2018 and, all of a sudden, the dystopian world depicted in the franchise feels more real than ever before to many people.

The teaser trailer for The First Purge has already hinted at how the prequel will exploit the terrifying parallels between its own story and what's actually being reported on the news today, but it's still somewhat hard to imagine how this purging system was first introduced to the public. How did the government persuade people to accept legalized murder? Who were the first victims of the purge? And how did the rest of the world react? The answers to all of these questions and more will finally be answered in The First Purge, satisfying fans who have long struggled to try and fill in the gaps themselves.

Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will join the franchise

Ever since Ethan Hawke starred in The Purge, subsequent installments haven't boasted the same level of star power, but that's set to change with Marisa Tomei starring in the upcoming prequel. After winning an Oscar for her supporting role in My Cousin Vinny, Marisa Tomei continued to impress audiences and critics alike with two more Oscar nominations in 2002 and 2009 for In The Bedroom and The Wrestler respectively. However, aside from a little-known psychological thriller called Danika, Tomei has rarely delved into the horror genre over the course of her career. 

Nevertheless, her star appeal remains a huge boost for the series, especially since Tomei gained a whole new generation of fans thanks to her appearance as Aunt May in Marvel's Spider-Man: Homecoming. While it's doubtful that Tomei will gain another Academy nomination for her role in The First Purge, her charisma will undoubtedly win over a few more fans for the franchise when the film hits cinemas on July 4.

Unknown leads will raise the stakes

Aside from the Academy Award-winning actor Marisa Tomei, the rest of the cast starring in The First Purge are mostly unknown actors, some of which have starred in small-scale productions that fail to match the scale of the upcoming prequel. However, the work that they have starred in so far is impressive and bodes well for their roles in The Purge franchise.

Examples include Lex Scott Davis, who played a recurring role on the Training Day TV series, Mo McRae, J. Poppa on Empire, and Luna Lauren Velez, who has appeared in everything from Dexter and Ugly Betty to How To Get Away With Murder. Rounding out the cast are the likes of Y'Lan Noel, Melonie Diaz, and Joivan Wade, none of whom are exactly what you would call household names but are experienced enough to break out in The First Purge.

While we doubt that someone as famous as Tomei will be killed off early on (although there has been some precedence for this in films like Scream), what seems far more likely is that many of these lesser known actors won't see their characters surviving the end of the movie. If hardly anyone is safe, this will raise the stakes plot-wise and increase the tension in what could be the most violent and unsettling installment seen in The Purge franchise.