There are a couple points I didn’t include in my recap of the marketing for The First Purge over at The Hollywood Reporter but which I wanted to make nonetheless:
Not only is the message being sent overtly political but it’s overtly *racially* political: The posters don’t reflect this much but it’s stated outright in the official trailer that the introduction of The Purge is being seen as the white leadership attempting to keep the black population in its place.
The variation on the MAGA hat that was used in the campaign and the frequent invocation of how The Purge will help restore America to its former glory connect the dots between those phrases and how the policies enacted in furtherance of that goal have often been racist – or at least classist – in nature. The movie’s director Gerard McMurray talks specifically about the Trump-inspired themes here.
That tone and theme has me very interested in how the movie will do at the box-office. It’s possible an audience of white male incels, many of whom love the themes and tropes of the horror genre, rejects any suggestion people like them are terrible and wield power solely to make the lives of others miserable. It’s also possible black audiences latch onto it as a statement of validation and compensates for that. Basically, I *really* want to see demographic data on the opening weekend audience.
It’s the latest surprise horror hit to launch a fast-moving franchise: I’m thinking here of examples like Saw and Paranormal Activity, both of which came out of the gate unexpectedly strong and were followed by a number of sequels in a very short time span. The Purge, like those previous series, seems to be taking advantage of how horror films often have budgets low enough that $90 million in box-office is a 3x multiplier, making it a massive success.
This is the fourth Purge movie in five years and that’s about as long as these franchises last, though, before the novelty of the concept wears off and the stories begin to descend into silliness. You need look no further than the Halloween, Friday the 13th and other classic horror series for examples that go back even further.
The lack of press for the movie is kind of surprising: Aside from that interview with McMurray, I couldn’t find a whole lot of press or other publicity for the film, and none of the TV spots are available on Universal’s YouTube channel. The couple of screenings noted in the THR post are about all I found.
If I were conspiratorially-minded I’d wonder if that weren’t intentional on the studio’s part. It couldn’t do nothing, but the more opportunities the cast and crew would be given to talk the more likely it is they’re going to have to weigh in on the political themes of the story. That might have been too much of a risk for Universal, which was fine with everyone having a laugh at the faux MAGA hat on the teaser poster but which didn’t want to expand too much beyond that.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.