Pre­quel treads fa­mil­iar ground

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The First Purge (15)

The fourth en­try in the dystopian hor­ror se­ries goes back to the very be­gin­ning as we see how the an­nual Purge came into be­ing.

Yep, we’re in pre­quel ter­ri­tory and will have to wait un­til the next se­quel — or the up­com­ing Purge TV se­ries — to see the film­mak­ers build on the third movie’s in­trigu­ing cli­max.

That in it­self is a bit of a shame, but the story of how the New Found­ing Fa­thers of Amer­ica in­tro­duce the vi­o­lent ex­per­i­ment of a 24-hour law-free so­ci­ety makes for a fas­ci­nat­ing enough al­ter­na­tive.

Though the di­rec­tor of the pre­vi­ous three films, James DeMonaco, re­turns to script this pre­quel, he hands over the reins to Ger­ard McMur­ray (Burn­ing Sands).

Bar the first en­try’s Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey and, to a lesser ex­tent, the se­quels’ Frank Grillo, the Purge fran­chise has been short on big-name stars — and the clos­est this in­stal­ment gets to one is Marisa Tomei (Dr Up­dale).

The beauty of that, though, is that you never know who is go­ing to make it to the end cred­its — a wel­come boon to any hor­ror flick — and be­cause none of the ma­jor char­ac­ters pop up in fu­ture movies, all bets are off here.

It adds to the ten­sion and in a di­vided United States un­der Don­ald Trump’s rule, the re­lease of each Purge film seems to get closer and closer to por­tray­ing an Amer­ica that could one day be­come a re­al­ity — al­though, hope­fully not!

Aes­thet­i­cally and ton­ally, The First Purge has more in com­mon with its two pre­vi­ous pre­de­ces­sors as the se­ries veers ever fur­ther away from the home in­va­sion-themed orig­i­nal.

McMur­ray doesn’t change an aw­ful lot of the vis­ual style we’ve come to ex­pect as he utilises creepy masks, spurts of gore and shock­ing images of hu­man­ity gone wrong to pro­ject terror.

DeMonaco’s script builds on the third flick’s idea of the pow­ers-that-be play­ing off the poor and work­ing class as pawns to be eas­ily dis­posed of to shape their vi­sion of an ideal Amer­ica.

It’s not very sub­tle, but does help when cre­at­ing char­ac­ters to root for in what could eas­ily be a world where any­one’s death means very lit­tle to us as an au­di­ence.

The is­sue of race — loosely touched on in the pre­vi­ous en­tries — comes to the fore here as Amer­i­can peo­ple are used as pawns black res­i­dents of Staten Is­land fight for their very ex­is­tence against white po­lit­i­cal fig­ures mak­ing in­creas­ingly de­plorable decisions.

McMur­ray gets to the heart of his pro­tag­o­nists by shoot­ing them up close, of­ten us­ing hand­held cam­eras, while the bad­dies get more widescreen, glam­orous treat­ment.

Fans of the se­ries are sure to lap up what is an­other en­ter­tain­ing­but-down­beat in­stal­ment.

But for ev­ery­one else, the lack of sub­tlety, char­ac­ters’ silly de­ci­sion­mak­ing and shaky ide­ol­ogy will leave them hop­ing The First Purge is also the last.

Po­lit­i­cal pow­erThe

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