October 24, 2016 The Purgation (Movie Review)
Even though many may leave their hometown as soon as they come of age, quite often, life’s circumstances will lead them back again. Tapping into this concept, The Purgation focuses on how one’s past can return to haunt them. A Horror written and directed by Actress/Director Elaine Chu (One World 2011, Excision 2012), Chu showcases an expansive imagination in her debut feature film released on August 16, 2016 via Video on Demand.
The events of the story initially take place in the past, where young Iris (Megan Truong: Broken Angels 2014, A History of Radness 2015) and her friends Marlene (Martina D’Ovidio: The Summoned 2015), Derek (Alex Gruenenfelder: NASA: Exploration Space 2010, Fresh Hell 2012), and Caden (Pearce Joza: Best of Seven 2016, Mech-X4 2016-2017) are dropped off at a local abandoned mental asylum by babysitter Eddie (Kat Johnston: Flat Daddy 2007, A Man Called Trouble 2008), who is also Derek’s sister. Iris is an aspiring filmmaker and has written a Horror story for her friends to play out in the asylum. Along the short walk to the cellar door, Iris explains that, years ago, a nun, Sister Agnes, after torturing patients, went on a murderous spree and killed everyone.
Marlene, Derek, and Caden dismiss the tales as urban legend, until they enter the asylum. A short time into their movie-making, the group experience the asylum’s true horrors, but manage to escape with their sanity barely intact. Fast forward a few decades and Iris (Tiffany Kieu: Everyday Lies 2013-2014, Angel City 2015-2016) is now a grown woman and working for a C grade Paranormal Investigation reality show, with co-worker Jacob (Corey Fabyan: The Relief Keeper 2011, Actor’s Study 2012). In order to get a leg up in her career, she tells her boss about the old asylum in her home town, Black Fall. He jumps at the chance of sending Iris and Jacob immediately there.
Upon their arrival, they check into a motel and Iris catches up with Eddie, where she discovers that Derek no longer speaks and Marlene is blind and crazy. This disconcerts Iris, but despite warnings from Eddie and others, it does not prevent her going to the asylum with Jacob and start filming. However, after looking around a few rooms, Iris recalls fractured memories of her past, the spirits become restless, and Jacob falls ill. They leave for a while so Jacob can rest, but Iris continues to piece together the events of her first trip into the asylum. As she does so, her everyday reality alters and the difference between dream and awake becomes indistinguishable. Iris questions her sanity, but continues to research, delving deeper into the Asylum’s history, determined to solve the truth of Sister Agnes and end her torment forever. Iris is pulled into a dark world, tearing her out of Eddie’s protective grasp.
Right up until the end, The Purgation’s story twists and turns. It is difficult to pinpoint what is real and what is not. It becomes clear during the tale that some parts of the story come from a fractured mind, but, whose mind is subjective. While some of the acting is shaky, and the occasional scene does not progress the plot, The Purgation is a rich, unique, and interesting movie. John Hale, who has worked on films such as 2014’s 22 Jump Street and 20015’s Insurgent, utilizes a number of camera techniques which immerses the viewer in the story. The special effects are simple, yet effective, and it is evident the small budget was utilized in important aspects such as editing, the art department, and story/character production.
With the recent release of The Conjuring 2 making excellent use of a demonic nun, The Purgation does the same, unfortunately, it somewhat diminishes the impact of Sister Agnes. Though, the ending is open in some regards to extend her character further in possible sequels. That in mind, it is also refreshing to see an Asian-American main character in Iris, and likewise for the immensely multi-talented Director Chu. She is certainly a writer/director/actress to keep an eye out for in the future. CrypticRock.com gives The Purgation 4 out of 5 stars.