In telling the story of Universal’s The First Purge, which introduces the inauguration of the day when laws are unenforced and pent-up violence unleashed, director Gerard McMurray found inspiration in pulling from real-life events to underscore the film’s themes of abuse of power and resistance.
“Right now we’re living in a time where people are waking up and seeing how things really are and are needing to stand up and voice their opinion,” said McMurray, speaking with Deadline at the 22nd annual American Black Film Festival. “As a filmmaker, showing those images and putting it out there gave me a voice to acknowledge what was going on and bring some awareness and spark dialogue about it.”
The movie was filmed during the time of the Charlottesville riots. “We see events that taking place in this country over the last year,” McMurray said. “I just try to use what was going on in the real world and trying to bring it into the film. I felt like horror films wrestle with the evils of real life, and that was one of the things I wanted to do with this film.”
From Blumhouse Productions, Platinum Dunes, and Universal, the origin story starts with a push to get the crime rate below 1% for the rest of the year. The New Founding Fathers of America test a sociological theory that vents aggression for one night in one isolated community. But when the violence of oppressors meets the rage of the marginalized, the contagion will explode from the trial-city borders and spread across the nation.
Those who the Purge is targeting won’t give in easily, staging a protest to the unjust act — not unlike the present day, which McMurray pointed to as an homage to the Black Lives Matter movement,
“We’re fighting for real injustices [in the film],” he said. “The fact that it’s a genre horror film, it’s not real, but I still wanted pay homage [to Black Lives Matter] and do things I thought it would be great”
Y’Lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Luna Lauren Velez and Marisa Tomei star in this prequel, which hits theaters July 4.