We Conclude Our Four-Part Purge With The Surprising 'The First Purge'

The First Purge is about the first purge, but it’s not actually the first Purge movie. It’s the fourth Purge movie, but set during the first purge in the Purge universe. Still following? No matter, Be Kind and Rewatch It is here to help. Writer/director James DeMonaco, who helmed the past three movies, only worked on the script for The First Purge, with Gerard McMurray (Burning Sands) stepping in—a refreshing shift the franchise has badly needed. As we close out our discussion of the Purge series, Austin, Patrick, Rob, Danielle, and Natalie gather to break down a franchise that surprised, delighted, and disappointed us.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/439nbb/we-conclude-our-four-part-purge-with-the-surprising-the-first-purge

it isn’t out yet but I thought this should be on yall’s radar for Watchcasting

short version: A cross-dressing slave joins John Brown’s crew as they roam their way to Harper’s Ferry.

i’d like to suggest the Now You See Me movies. They’re not particularly deep or trying to comment on anything, i just want to hear you folks yelling about bank-robbing wizards

One thing I really liked about The First Purge, and I think y’all touched on this a big (tangentially, at least), is that while each Purge movie has a sort-of “catharsis phase” this one it actually felt like it had earned it and that it executed it well.

The thing I mean is like how in The Purge there’s the moment near the end where the mother breaks the other woman’s nose just before the purge ends and it’s supposed to be a cathartic moment. “Ah yes, this woman is evil. Fuck her up, rich mom.” Natalie even brought it up during that podcast but then over the course of talking about it had turned on that scene because, while it is a very base level of catharsis, it didn’t feel like it was okay for that to be happening in terms of the characters or story or anything that movie had built up. There were similar moments in the second and third movies (like the white woman in Anarchy saying “I want to purge” near the end) but again, they never really feel earned. Whereas in The First Purge because of the overall better writing, and also because of the better fight choreography (milsim lingo dudes vs kung-fu-like action, like Rob had talked about) the catharsis of watching these characters just kill the shit out of some fascists feels earned and ends up making for some very strong moments in the movie.

I had never seen any of the Purge movies before and when the first one or two had come out I had written them off as some kind of murder porn killing fantasy garbage movie but it’s been really interesting to see how the movies are actually (mostly) trying to not be that, have something political to say, and aren’t ashamed to just shout the message directly at you, subtlety be damned. That fourth one was the best of them. The first one was alright. The second and third… eh. But I’m glad that I went back and watched them now. This was a really cool and fun thing.

I wish I had any good recommendations for thing to watch in the future but I can only think of stuff like Timecrimes or Fish Tank, aka stuff I really like and want more people to watch but am not actually sure if there’s much to discuss there. Also I just realized that with those two movies specifically, I’m not sure if they’re easily available anywhere, oops.

1 Like

I’m glad to hear that this film marked a tick back up for the crew, although I did appreciate the long-tail trends that you can see from film-to-film that folks pointed out (like the cultivation of seeds that Election Year gestured towards). I’d heard good things about The First Purge (I’ve plugged Kermode before and will do so again, where he called the film ‘solid’, although I think this YouTube clip cuts out some further comments he makes that focus more on the subtext of the film in listener correspondence). I’m definitely tempted to give it a go.

I don’t have a ton of opinions about where, ahem, BGARI should go next, although I would quite like to see something that hops out of B-movie/horror, although I appreciate that might just be what fits into everyone’s interests and counts as ‘rewatch’ material. I’d definitely be keen to get a few recommendations from Zacny if there’s any particularly good historical/war films that he wants to pull out from his archive, as it’s an area I’m mostly unfamiliar with.

(P.S. If there’s any space in the future, would love to get some concise definitions for terms like ‘B-movie’/‘blaxploitations’. I’ve listened to and read enough film discussion to have a general idea about what these terms mean, but an opportunity to nail them down where relevant would be great in future episodes. I appreciate that film crit isn’t necessarily y’all’s wheelhouse, though!)

e: Actually, since this marks a good point, I just wanted to say that I really like the place BGARI has settled into with the balance between recap and discussion.

For me, I think a recap or rewatch show has to balance out for its audience, most of whom probably haven’t watched the work, able to coherently follow the conversation. While a casual conversation will often flit through a film chaotically, I think y’all have shaped how you summarise and then progress through the plot, helping to keep the podcast grounded. A subplot recapped here or there is fine, as it makes more sense to introduce it & summarise it when it makes sense rather than at the beginning.

The discussion is (generally) kept in a sufficiently followable chronological ordering without getting bogged down in the minutia or jumping off the film entirely. This is definitely the kind of recap style I enjoy, so would love to see this keep going on whatever you decided to do next.

This is a good explanation of Exploitation films, and has a direct link to Blaxploitation as well.

B-movie’s definition has been ripped apart over the years, but it literally refers to a movie that was shown after an “A-movie”. There was a set up when it was often a double feature: The A-movie was the high-budget, major film that was the coming attraction and the B-movie was the lower budget picture that most people left by the time it started. This tradition is kept today with drive-in pictures. It also became a common term again when MS3TK found super obscure B-movies and famously made fun of them. The term never really meant a specific style, genre, content, or even really context and had no underlying theme so it obviously got out of control.
Other genres such as Film noir and Western also became a bit vague (which is funny because noir pictures are literally about ambiguity) and diverse, but at least had some real tenants and obvious touchstones.

As for this actual movie, I found it pretty poor. everything about it was so dull and boilerplate, but it did have some moments that were so dumb I laughed. For the most part I was just sort of groaning at how 1-note and generic it was. That being said it was my one and only Purge movie and we saw it because it was out, moviepass was a ridiculous value, and it was at least partially shot locally.
Though it was fun because me and my buddy watched it at the drive-in and we got so bored with it but there was a bright side. During the movie my friend was looking at his phone and noticed Target’s website was having some weird glitch (looking at reddit or something) where you stack like 12 coupons on top of each other, and both of us ended up buying a bunch of stuff for cheap that night! Made up for a movie that was otherwise pretty forgettable.


I went to school in Staten Island for a little while, lived by their most of my life in Jersey. As far as I know, nobody ever called Staten Island “The Island”. But I went to a rich school and knew mostly Todt Hill people, so maybe it’s a thing in different neighborhoods.

Also I’m surprised there hasn’t been an East Asian kung-fu Purge rip-off yet.

i love this movie! this podcast episode was cool!

i’m going to wind up repeating points i made in previous threads in this series, but the most important thing for me is that these films (at their best) take sincere visual joy in revolutionary violence, and in portraying oppressed folks of various stripes rising up and fighting back against their oppressors. for sure, many of them dilute that with boring textual liberalism of various stripes, but fundamentally what you walk out of this movie with is a message that killing nazis is not only cool, it’s necessary.

there are problems with that! i’m not here to claim The First Purge is going to start the revolution. but it’s the kind of movie i want to see more of, and i’m glad it’s being engaged with seriously, despite being a very silly and joyful work. i’m reminded a little of the Wolfenstein games; as Big Productions (albeit on slightly different levels), it’ll always straddle a line in terms of how effective that messaging is (and what the material profit from its success winds up supporting), but i still enjoy it a lot and want more things like it.

1 Like