While The Purge: Election Year was written in 2014, and its cultural and political themes were essentially a shot in the dark and not actually inspired by the 2016 election cycle during which it was released, it looks like the upcoming prequel -- The First Purge -- will be much more overt in its approach to current events.
During a previously-unreleased interview conducted in late 2016, Blumhouse founder and CEO Jason Blum talked about the way truth and fiction had begun to blur into one another, with political rhetoric getting more toxic and heated and previously-unthinkable concepts entering the political mainstream. He also talked about how such things impact somebody whose primary concern is not to educate or persuade, but to make an entertaining film.
"It was wild. Obviously at the time we couldn't have anticipated any of the stuff that's happened in the last 12 months," Blum told ComicBook.com. "The movie was just the story of the election year. But it's been a great thing the way art imitates life imitates art, for sure. We talk about it all the time, and it's been unbelievable. James [Demonaco], in a way, kind of made a movie about a lot of the themes and feelings and emotions people are having right now."
Dealing with those themes and feelings allowed them to make a movie, Blum said, which would have been nearly impossible to make at a larger studio. It is part of the low-fi ethos of Blumhouse: minimizing the capital investment means minimizing the number of overseers who have veto power over the needs of the story.
"There's always a lot of temptation as a filmmaker," Blum said. "You get more toys with more money. You get more stuff, you can blow stuff up, you can do all of these things that you can't do when you're working on a limited budget. But I have always believed and continue to believe that when you start to spend more money, you start to creatively make sacrifices. I don't think that we could have had the storyline that we had in The Purge: Election Year at a $30 million budget. I think too many people would have weighed in and said 'There are too many risks here. You have to make this more digestible for a broader audience and now there's too much controversial stuff in it.' So as much as I like the toys that money can buy, I always fight that urge because I know that even though the toys come with the price, nothing is free, and the price for me is definitely too high."
What is that message? Well, contrary to what it might seem when you spy that red hat on the teaser poster for the upcoming prequel The First Purge, Blum told us that the message is meant to be broader than any one political party or philosophy; it is meant as a general warning against the kind of reckless, hasty, and myopic decisionmaking that would have made The Purge a viable political idea.
"The Purge is a cautionary tale," Blum said. "James Demonaco and I think that The Purge would not be a great idea. So I think the closer you let in to the thinking of how it came to be and why people want it and why people don't want it, hopefully that becomes clearer and clearer. But we don't make the movies to push a message down people's throat; we make the movies because it's a fun, crazy, wild idea. But second to that, I don't think it would be super responsible to have people walking away thinking the movies are propaganda to start a Purge in the United States because I don't think it would be such good idea."
The First Purge hits theaters on July 4.