The First Purge Blu-ray Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Blu-ray released by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Directed by Gerard McMurray
Written by James DeMonaco
2018, 98 minutes, Rated R
Released on October 2nd, 2018

Marissa Tomei as The Architect – Dr. Updale
Patch Darragh as Chief of Staff Arlo Sabien
Y’Lan Noel as Dmitri
Lex Scott Davis as Nya
Joivan Wade as Isaiah
Mugga as Dolores
Luna Lauren Velez as Luisa
Rotimi Paul as Skeletor


I don’t get my feathers ruffled by a movie (in this case a series of movies) that are heavy on the political and social commentary. I applaud it, in fact. There are folks out there, like me, that are so into entertainment that you will reach them more effectively in that medium than you will with the news, a website, or a rally. The Purge franchise is steeped in these not-so-subliminal messages.

The First Purge is the fourth entry in the franchise, a prequel that takes us back to the beginning of the administration of the New Founding Fathers political party. The Experiment (as it is first known) will take place, despite powerful protest, on Staten Island. Dr. Updale (Marissa Tomei; My Cousin Vinny) is the creator of this controversial practice designed to cleanse us of our violent needs as a sort of reset button for the human psyche. She’s working with New Founding Fathers Chief of Staff Arlo Sabien (Patch Darragh;The Visit) to monitor the results. The residents of Staten Island are being given $5,000 to stay on the island and even more to participate and purge, along with handy-dandy contact lenses that record everything and make your eyes glow like a monster. Nya (Lex Scott Davis; short-lived CBS series Training Day) and her brother, Isaiah (Joivan Wade; BBC series Doctor Who), are staying home for very different reasons. Before the night of terror is over, the residents of Staten Island and Dr. Updale will realize just how dangerous and easily manipulated The Purge truly is.

Prequels should lay out the groundwork for the already established story in some detail, and The First Purge does so in perfunctory fashion. An opening montage of video clips shows the relevant news- crime at an all-time high, unemployment through the roof, and a collapsing economy; America is a nation on the brink of collapse. With that we are whisked into the stories of people in the community. They’re a hearty bunch whose tales are as American as whatever the equivalent of apple pie is nowadays. In short, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen referenced in the previous three films.

The atmosphere and the setting do feel very much like what we have gone through in recent years. That’s the point- to be relevant so the message hits home with some force. While the message of the 1% vs the 99% isn’t lost, it isn’t very fresh at this point. It’s a real shame, too. The assembled cast, crew, and stuntmen and women do a stellar job of making this entry more intense and personal than the previous two (I still maintain that the original is a borderline masterpiece).

Marissa Tomei is a believable and sympathetic character as the poor soul who opened Pandora’s Box. Patch Darragh is a properly slimy and greedy political prick. The folks trying to survive the worst night ever in the hood have fantastic chemistry. Two standouts are Y’Lan Noel as the neighborhood drug lord with a heart of gold and Rotimi Paul as psycho extraordinaire, Skeletor. The dude is terrifying on a very real level. I’d totally pass on screwing with that big bastard.

The violence level is upped, especially when the mercs show up and evening becomes the dead of night. First-rate fight scenes and brutal gunplay are somewhat dampened by too much CGI. When did practical blood effects and squib work become a no-no? Still, it’s effective and deafening.

The issue lies in the writing. Nothing is new and fresh. It’s competent but unoriginal. Thankfully, the cast and crew bailed it out with committed performances and reality-grounded violence that feels more urban and exploitative than any other entry in the series. The soundtrack bumps and the score lets you know when the shit is about to hit the fan (where it lands very often). You’ll dig the various glowing lenses that give the party scenes and street chases a strong horror flavor in a movie that is much more of an action film with political overtones.

Overall, The First Purge is not the strongest entry in the series but a necessary piece of the story that could have been so much more.

Video and Audio:

Presented in 2.39:1 Widescreen, the video is crisp in any lighting or setting and more than adequate to highlight the Candyman inspired look and feel. The night blacks are pitch, and the day-glo of the horror aspects pop.

The English DTS: X Master Audio will have your soundbar thumping…you won’t need to turn it up very high to enjoy The First Purge. Great look and sound.

Special Features:

  • Deleted Scene
  • A Radical Experiment
  • Bringing the Chaos
  • The Masks of The First Purge

One single deleted scene has the menacing Skeletor attacking and meeting an untimely attack from Isaiah. It is easy to see why it was left out due to script conflicts, though I dig the hardcore vibe and physicality.

“A Radical Experiment” is a 4:57 mini-featurette with cast and director interviews about the overall theme and relevance of the story that is being told, spun as a cautionary tale for our turbulent times. It is glossy and well-constructed for the short runtime.

“Bringing the Chaos” is a 1:24 super-mini-featurette about the stunts and weapons work. This really should have been more in-depth, as it’s one of the areas where the movie really shines.

Another area where it could’ve gone on longer and added to the overall package is “Masks of the Purge”. Clocking in at 1:22, this super-mini-featurette is about the various masks of this installment of the series and the significance of masks in the series as a whole. This is another area where it could’ve gone on longer and added to the overall package.


Movie: Grade Cover
Video: Grade
Audio: Grade
Features: Grade
Overall: 2.5 Star Rating

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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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