The Purgation (2015): A Macabre Review.

The PurgationStarring Tiffany Kieu, Kat Johnston, Kate Dauphin

Directed by Elaine Chu

The Indie horror scene is a tricky one. While it seems sometimes that it’s the last bastion of originality compared to what Hollywood churns out nowadays, Indie horror can still be hit or miss on occasion. But the gems that I do find keep me optimistic for the future of horror. Today, I’ll be talking about The Purgation, a movie that had an Indiegogo campaign that ended in early 2014.  It unfortunately didn’t meet its goal, but it was a flexible funding campaign, and production went through nevertheless.  Special thanks go out to Director Elaine Chu, who was gracious enough to provide a screener so I can inform you good people about The Purgation. So without further ado, let’s begin.

Once upon a time, a young girl named Iris got together with her friends Marlene, Derrick, and imaginary friend Caden to shoot a horror movie in an old abandoned insane asylum in their hometown of Black Falls.  The experience turned into a nightmare as it wasn’t long before they encountered some ghostly residents who refused to leave, including the ghost of Sister Agnes, who was reportedly very abusive towards her patients.  This resulted in all of the children mentally scarred and, with the exception of Iris, unable to live normal lives afterwards.

Fast forward years later.  After moving away to Los Angeles, Iris returns to Black Falls to confront her past and find some answers regarding the history of the asylum and the mysterious Sister Agnes.  But the longer Iris stays in Black Falls, the more her sanity is tested to the point where Iris is uncertain what is or is not real anymore.


Noooope! If I saw him as an adult I’d probably run away, let alone as a kid.

The Purgation is a very good example of what can be accomplished with a minimal budget and maximum aspiration and optimism.  There is not a whole lot in the way of blood and gore, but the portrayal of Iris and the gradual unravelling of her sanity is entertaining enough to make up for it.  Tiffany Kieu, who played Iris, was a great choice for the role, as she was not only a good actress, but she was very good at using facial expressions to convey what she was feeling throughout the movie.  In fact, the acting for the most part was well done.  Even the child actors were, for the most part anyway, good enough to make their screen time tolerable.

Director Elaine Chu has stated that the inspiration for The Purgation was based on her own experience with shooting a horror movie with her childhood friends in the Wood County Asylum in Marshfield, Wisconsin, and her desire to create a disturbing story.  Not to mention that Chu is a big fan of Japanese and Korean horror movies, and that aspect is also evident when watching this film.   Her love of those movies was also a big reason why an Asian-American was cast as the main character, given how the American remakes cast an American in the lead role(s).  Which is understandable, but then, I don’t think the vast majority of the Asian horror remakes should even exist.  But I digress…


“Well, I can’t find the kids. This seems like as good a place to nap as any.”

I can’t really complain about much here, since this was another case where a minuscule budget can allow a filmmaker to only do so much with what he/she can work with.  One thing I do wish was different however, is that slightly shaky camera in the majority of the scenes.  I don’t know where that started, or how it got so big to be used in so many TV shows and movies, but I’ve never enjoyed it.  If there is some action going on, that would be one thing. But in my opinion, there is absolutely no need for a camera to move during scenes of simple dialogue, unless it’s following an actor around a room or something like that.  Anyway, that can be part of a larger rant for another time.

So while I may be a simple gravedigger and not a doctor, I would still prescribe you The Purgation when it gets released.  To keep updated on the release date and other news, follow the Facebook page here, and if you do Twitter, you can follow Elaine Chu at @lanalane  When you take into account the low budget, and the fact that this is the directorial debut of Elaine Chu, I think you’ll see that it’s a solid first effort, and with some more backing in the future, Elaine Chu is a Director worth keeping an eye on down the road.  Rest in peace.

Macabre Rating: 3.5 out of 5 tombstones

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