Iris thinks she's going crazy. To stay sane, she must confront her past by revisiting the site of a childhood trauma - the old county asylum.
Now, with that opening critique, let me once again express the idea that I am a pretty forgiving person/critic. Even in the most horrible (not in a good way) films which have come across my desk for review – I’ve prided myself on the fact that I can generally find some positives – regardless of how minute or seemingly inconsequential they may seem.
There is nothing, and I do mean nothing worthwhile in The Purgation.
Four young kids decide to investigate an abandoned asylum in the woods, with the dreamy purpose of creating a horror film. Iris, Derek, Marlene and Iris’s imaginary friend Caden (whom the kids all see, I guess) get lost in the catacombs of the underground asylum and see some weird things. Caden disappears and Iris is rescued by Derek’s older sister Eddie (pronounced like “Edie”). We don’t know the fates of Derek and Marlene, until the story flash forwards many years later. Iris is now a legit filmmaker, and she has returned to her hometown to shoot some footage at the old asylum – for an assignment she has from some unnamed television program. Things get weird, she visits the now grown and cuckoo Marlene and Derek – and returns to the mysteries of the subterranean asylum.
I’d like to say that the film’s confusing tone was what sparked my deep-seated hatred, but there are far larger problems which will no doubt lead my avid readers of 2 to the same place – The Purgation is a monumental waste of time.
It was extremely painful in the beginning with the four children meandering aimlessly through the dusty halls of the asylum. The acting from these four youngsters was terrible. Imagine my burst of excitement when I discovered that this was simply a lengthy prologue and that we’d be rejoining these characters when they’re much older, and thankfully played by different actors.
And then it became clear that the adult actors were equally as deficient in their thespian skills as those playing their younger versions.
As our lead actor – portraying adult Iris – Tiffany Kieu offers zero sympathy for the character’s problems. There’s not one ounce of truthfulness in her performance, and that’s certainly not all on her shoulders.
The script is atrocious. But even good actors can sometimes overcome bad dialogue. There’s a way to turn crappy words on their head and somehow make them semi-legit. The problem is that the script is so bad, Kieu’s clearly a bad actress, and there was no one at the helm who could pull a semi-decent performance from any her actors. Of course, it’s the old trap of the “writer/director” thinking they can do it all. Generally, you’ll find that these “double-threats” are more capable in at least one of their proclaimed stations. Elaine Chu – no go on both fronts.
On the supporting actors – no one delivers anything of note. It’s amazing that during this feature-length film – not one genuine moment from a relatively decent-sized cast – can be found. That indicates a failure on so many levels. A failure in writing, casting and directing. The Purgation is a failure.
The very few gore and make-up effects are amateur at best – with one exception – there’s a dude in a straight-jacket running around the halls of the asylum, with his eyes sewn shut and spewing forth plenty of viscous red blood. That make-up was effective and I bought it. Everything else (most notably the disemboweling of one character on the kitchen tile) was genuinely unbelievable.
I will admit, I didn’t necessarily mind the score by Marc Chester. It had some decent cues, but the thing is – they never matched what was going on in the story. It was as if the score was trying desperately to overcome the complete lack of suspense, anticipation and excitement on screen. Oh, and even with a passable soundtrack, none of the “boo” moments worked.
And that brings me to the uninspired, flat and just plain boring technical aspects of the rest of the picture. Which technical pieces, you ask? All of them, folks. Sets were unimpressive (that hotel room – not buying it in the slightest), the lighting was bland and again – flat, camera-work offered nothing out of the ordinary. Wait, there was one overhead shot later in the picture where adult Iris was being chased by a bunch of straight-jacket encased crazies. That was pretty cool (well, what do you know, I did find something good!) But the only word I can find to properly describe pretty much everything you will see in The Purgation – I simply must re-use uninspired. If the shoe fits, folks… if the shoe fits.
The attempt at a twist ending doesn’t work. I didn’t get it. I didn’t care. You won’t either, so it requires no further discussion.
Not to beat a dead horse while it’s down, but I saw in the closing credits – a notation of “Table Read” – which indicates that this script must have been at least slightly work-shopped. I’ll just leave that fact out there – with no further comment.
The Purgation is boring – offering sub-par acting, editing, lighting, writing, direction, production design and basic story-telling skills. Did I miss anything? I think this pretty much sums it up.
The film is currently available on DVD and VOD platforms. And since the term “purgation” is of Roman Catholic origin, meaning “the spiritual cleansing of a soul in purgatory”, I will again provide no additional comment, other than to repeat the word, “purgatory”. And I’ll then offer only the beginning of that word’s definition, “a place or state of suffering…”