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The First Purge Sets The Crime Spree Tradition Scary-Close To Reality

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If you’ve ever wondered how the uber-violent, all-crime-is-legal-for-12-hours tradition known as the Purge came to be, you can do one of two things: head to the theatre today to watch The First Purge, the prequel that sets up the previous three Purge movies, or just turn on CNN.

The movie is set in the America of today, with all of its social crises and *ahem* administrative problems. Opioid epidemic? Check. Poverty and unemployment? Check. Everyone and their great aunt armed with their own semi-automatic? Check. Alt-right buying up all the polo necks and chinos at Old Navy? Check that nonsense too. The movie simply takes it one step further: by implementing a “solution” for all this malaise.

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So what, exactly, are our neighbours to the south doing to mark this fictional yet frighteningly close to reality Independence Day? They’re running an experiment on Staten Island in which all crime including murder is legal for one night. The architect of the trial (Marisa Tomei—yep, this Purge has an actor you’ve actually heard of) is a behavioural scientist working for the newly elected right wing government.

The experiment works like this: anyone who volunteers to stay on the island for the night gets five grand… more if they “participate” in the purging of all their pent-up fear, anxiety, and rage. If it’s deemed successful (i.e. if enough poor people and people of colour are killed) President Tr—sorry, Bracken’s administration—will take the project nationwide.

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Directed by Gerard McMurray (Burning Sands) and written by franchise creator James DeMonaco, The First Purge is just as political as the last one, low-budget riffing on the current political climate the way movies like They Live and Candyman did in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Like The Handmaid’s Tale (only way less arty and sophisticated), The First Purge asks you to imagine a possible, horrifying next-step evolution in the direction America is already going.

Expecting things like character development in a Purge movie is like expecting to see flesh and blood actors to show up in a Pixar film. This isn’t about that. It’s about jump scares, gore, and every imaginable evil white guy trope (think: KKK ghouls, alt-right bros, mercenaries in blackface, rubber Nazis, misguided Republicans, cops). So: everything a Purge fan knows, loves, and wants more of.

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Now-classic Purge movie hallmarks figure in, too—the innocent are drawn out of their seemingly safe hiding spots and on to the streets, characters sigh deeply and say things like “We’re safe now” precisely when they’re in the most danger, and ingenious booby traps line every street and alleyway.

And then there’s those creepy Purge night costumes everyone wears, giving rise to the question: if this is the first Purge, why the HELL do so many people already own masks that look like the rotting head of a pig?

Doing its part to make America great again, The First Purge explodes into theatres today, July 4. Check out the trailer below.