HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE PURGE: THE SERIES – SEASON 1

The Purge (2018)

Starring

Gabriel Chavarria (War For The POTA)
Hannah Emily Anderson (Jigsaw)
Jessica Garza (Six)
Lili Simmons (Westworld)
Amanda Warren (NCIS: New Orleans)
Colin Woodell (The Originals)
Lee Tergesen (Monster)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

William Baldwin (Backdraft)
Reed Diamond (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Fiona Dourif (Cult of Chucky)
Paulina Gálvez (The Pianist)
Andrea Frankle (The Reaping)
Jessica Miesel (Office Christmas Party)
Dominic Fumusa (Homeland)
Allison King (Baby Driver)
Dylan Arnold (Naashville)
Christopher Berry (Django Unchained)
AzMarie Livingston (Empire)
Alyshia Ochse (The Other Woman)

Reed Diamond, Andrea Frankle, and Lili Simmons in The Purge (2018)Few 21st Century horror concepts have proven as potent and profitable as the The Purge. Set in a near-future America where all crime (including murder) is legal for one night a year, The Purge uses its high concept hook as a foundation to explore class and race conflict through lean, action-heavy horror films that have proved somewhat prescient about the rise of white nationalism and extremist politics in America. Created by James DeMonaco and backed by the folks at Blumhouse and Universal, The Purge franchise rode a modest $3 million budget to three sequels and and a total of more than $400 million box office worldwide, so it should come as no surprise that the horror hit is making its way to TV with the USA “event series”, simply titled The Purge.Gabriel Chavarria and Jessica Garza in The Purge (2018)Set in a peak period of Purge activity (between this year’s prequel The First Purge and the trilogy-capper Election Year), the series offers an opportunity to delve deep into the mythology that has captivated audiences. And with ten hour-long episodes, it also gives the writers, led by DeMonaco and showrunner Thomas Kelly, the narrative real estate to invest in rich characters and nearly real-time plotting as their ensemble navigates the night.Jessica Garza in The Purge (2018)In the Purge tradition, the series follows a cast of characters across social, political, racial and class divides, from the streets to the highest echelon of elites. In fact, we get a better look than ever at the latter, through the eyes of anti-Purge couple Rick (Colin Woodell) and Jenna (Hannah Anderson), who dress up in their best formal wear and head to the Stanton family mansion for lavish a pro-Purge party. With a baby on the way, the middle class couple is eyeing a financial investment from the Stanton patriarch (Reed Diamond) that wouldn’t just bankroll their housing development, but change their life. They’re also eyeing the Stanton daughter, Lila (Lili Simmons), a stunning anti-Purge socialite who shared a three-way romance with the married pair, and is poised like a ticking time bomb to upend their relationship, business dealings, or both, by the night’s end.Amanda Warren in The Purge (2018)In the realm of the white collar working class, we meet Jane (Amanda Warren), an executive forced to spend the night in her office building working an overnight deal with her team. Secured on a guarded floor where all employees are required to sign a no-Purge waiver, Jane is secretly carrying out a Purge agenda of her own via the assassin she hired to take out her sexist boss (William Baldwin) and agonizing over her decision every step of the way. Warren is a commanding actress, and while the fluorescent-lit corporate drama (and occasional satire) isn’t as viscerally gripping as the other cross-sections of life, her story remains one of the most emotionally engaging.Hannah Emily Anderson and Colin Woodell in The Purge (2018)Another character worth highlighting (though one we’ve barely glimpsed so far) is the vigilante Purger Joe (Lee Tergesen), a blue collar everyman who does his patriotic duty by hunting down murderous Purgers while listening to Purge-centric motivational tapes. He’s a “killer with a code” type and with an actor like Tergesen in the role, promises to be a powerful wild card if the series plays its hand right.Hannah Emily Anderson and Colin Woodell in The Purge (2018)Elsewhere on the streets, we meet Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria), a marine who just returned from a tour of duty in search of his sister Penelope (Jessica Garza), who is ready to give her life for a cult of pro-Purge martyrs led by the chilling and unflappable Good Leader Tavis (Fiona Dourif). While Jenna and Rick mingle with the costumed elite — who wear masks of famous pre-Purge killers a la Ted Bundy and Lizzie Borden in their sheltered celebration of killing — Miguel takes us through the minute-to-minute fight for survival on the streets. Here we see the most action; from run-ins with the requisite masked psychos to more original concepts, including Running Man-style game show called “The Gauntlet,” which Miguel is forced to play after being captured. It’s a cool idea, but a bit underwhelming in practice.Gabriel Chavarria in The Purge (2018)Despite a wealth of interesting characters and concepts, The Purge series lacks cinematic flair and signature style. The pilot episode fares best, directed by Unsolved and American Crime Story helmer Anthony Hemingway, but overall (and despite what appears to be a healthy budget), there’s a distinct made-for-TV quality that feels flat compared to the stylings of the film franchise, especially on the heels of Gerald McMurray‘s vibrant The First Purge. That toothless quality also bleeds into the violence, which is decidedly tamed down for television, and most disappointing of all, into the core of the franchise’s potent political allegory.Jessica Garza in The Purge (2018)The film franchise had more to say with each new installment, culminating in the angry cry that was The First Purge — a film that wore its politics on its sleeve both in content and marketing. By contrast, The Purge series feels like a dispassionate whisper. If it does have something to say, it’s certainly not saying it very loudly. It’s understandable that a series on a basic cable network like USA would want to reach the biggest possible audience, and there’s nothing wrong with preferring character drama over heavy-handed moralizing, but by depoliticizing an existing franchise, they’ve set up a contrast that inherently makes the series feel like it packs a weaker punch.Fiona Dourif in The Purge (2018)Of course, unlike the blunt-force approach of the lean machine movies, which rely heavy on setup and payoff with little in between, The Purge series has the opportunity to slow burn. Perhaps there will be some surprising twists along the way, and signs certainly point to character progression that allows for a lot more grey area between the scrappy heroes and masked madmen of the films. The ideas are strong (Purge cults!), some of the characters are downright fascinating — Joe, in particular promises a unique perspective in the franchise — and I’m eager to see where each story leads, but I have a nagging worry the track may be too plainly laid, even in these first few episodes and that the series ultimately doesn’t strive to be as transgressive as the films.That said, fans of the franchise should find plenty to enjoy in the new series, whether its the tangents of world-building and deepened mythology, the freaky new masks, or the ensemble of rich characters. It might not be quite as scary when that Purge siren blares, but there’s plenty to admire in this thoughtful adaptation.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE FIRST PURGE

Starring

Y’lan Noel (Slice)
Lex Scott Davis (Superfly)
Joivan Wade (The Weekend)
Mugga (Orange Is The New BLack)
Christian Robinson (Brockmire)
Lauren Vélez (Dexter)
Kristen Solis (Law & Order: SVU)
Marisa Tomei (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Patch Darragh (Sully)
Maria Rivera (Power)
Chyna Layne (Life of Crime)
Siya (Deuces)
Melonie Diaz (Ghost Team)
Mo McRae (Thirteen)
Steve Harris (12 Rounds)
Rotimi Paul (Dutch Kills)
Kevin Carrigan (House of Cards)

Joivan Wade and Lex Scott Davis in The First Purge (2018)A crazed drug addict named Skeletor talks on camera about his dark thoughts, including his desire to “purge” and unleash his hatred on other people. An unknown voice on the other end of the camera tells Skeletor that he will soon be able to. Sometime in the mid-21st century, turmoil has caused the government to be overthrown by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA). NFFA members Arlo Sabian and Dr. May Updale announce an experiment to take place on Staten Island where for 12 hours, citizens will be allowed to purge and release their inhibitions in any way they choose. The NFFA offers residents of the Island $5000 to stay in their homes during the experiment and a compensation for those participating as well. They also outfit the participants with tracking devices and contact lenses with cameras in them so that they can monitor all activity. Drug lord Dmitri tells his dealers that they will be leaving but drug dealer Capital A wants to stay and purge. Another young drug dealer, Isaiah, gets into a fight with Skeletor and gets his neck cut. Isaiah goes to his sister Nya, an anti-Purge activist and Dimitri’s ex-girlfriend, for treatment, and Nya later confronts Dmitri as she believes that Dmitri is Isaiah’s drug lord, which he denies.The First Purge (2018)As people flee Staten Island on the night of the experiment, Nya joins her friends Dolores, Luisa, and Selina in a church to wait out the Purge. Dmitri has stayed behind because Capital A has sent Anna and Elsa, two sex workers, to his office. Skeletor commits the first-ever murder during the Purge, and the video recorded by the NFFA goes viral. The NFFA also observe that more parties than killings are taking place and that crimes are mostly just looting and vandalism, as opposed to the expected murder. Isaiah, unbeknownst to his sister, joins the Purge to get his revenge on Skeletor. He eventually confronts him during the Purge but cannot shoot him. Skeletor chases Isaiah throughout the streets but Isaiah manages to hide and he calls Nya to help. Anna and Elsa are revealed to be Purgers who attempt to kill Dmitri, but Dmitri fights them off and learns that Capital A had sent them in an attempt to take over Dmitri’s business. Skeletor captures Nya in the streets and attempts to rape her, but Isaiah stabs him in the back and they escape.The First Purge (2018)Nya and Isaiah return to the church to see blood-soaked Purgers leaving it. They discover that Luisa and Selina survived, but Dolores’ fate is unknown. They all return to Nya’s apartment where Dolores has made it safely. At the NFFA headquarters, Updale starts becoming suspicious due to the Purge’s sudden change in the crimes committed, as well as the presence of masked participants. She reviews the video footage of the Purge and tracks where the vans of the masked killers came from. She discovers that these people are trained mercenary groups killing multiple civilians, including the ones at the church earlier. Sabian explains that he sent the mercenaries to make the experiment look successful, and eventually to help “balance” the rich and the poor. Updale protests this tampering of the experiment and informs Sabian her realization that NFFA only wants to eradicate the poor because they don’t want to take care of them. With Sabian’s corruption revealed, he has Updale taken away and killed, before erasing all footage of the event.Mo McRae and Lex Scott Davis in The First Purge (2018)Capital A goes to Dmitri’s office to see the results of Anna and Elsa’s efforts, but Dmitri and his gang kill Capital A. Dmitri and his gang escape through the streets, killing multiple Purgers along the way, until NFFA drones shoot and kill Dmitri’s gang. Dmitri calls Nya and warns her that the mercenaries are coming toward her apartment. Dmitri makes his way to the apartment, killing more mercenaries along the way. The mercenaries are about to shoot a rocket-propelled grenade into the apartments when Skeletor arrives and kills some mercenaries before he himself is killed. Dmitri grabs a piece of C-4, throws it and shoots it repeatedly until it explodes, killing the remaining mercenaries. As sirens sound the end of the Purge, Dmitri is hailed as a hero, and he states that the survivors must somehow fight back.Joivan Wade and Y'lan Noel in The First Purge (2018)During the end credits, Sabian reads a statement calling this experimental Purge a success, and that a nationwide Purge may begin as soon as the following year. A mid-credits scene leads into the events of the other films, and directly ties into The Purge television series.Joivan Wade and Lex Scott Davis in The First Purge (2018)These reviews are a little harsh. If you like the other three Purge movies then this one shouldn’t be any different. I felt like it was logical and if this were to happen it would indeed happen the way it did in the movie. If your huge into the other ones this one is great and as a whole it is a good franchise. I’d say it’s worth the watch if you love horror.