Written and Directed by Elaine Chu; Starring: Tiffany Kieu, Kat Johnston
Winner of the Best Feature Award at the Los Angeles Independent Artist Film Festival
Today, I have a special treat for you all. It is my pleasure to finally share with you my review of the final cut of The Purgation. Written and directed by Elaine Chu, this film follows Iris’ search for answers about an abandoned insane asylum where a tragic accident befell her and her friends when they were children. Throughout her investigation, Iris (Kieu) struggles with flashbacks of the traumatic incident, as well as her grasp on reality. In order to gain clarity and move forward with her life, she must confront her past and return to the asylum.
This film is an excellent portrayal of the veil between this world and the next. The theme of sane vs insane is very apparent throughout. There are many symbols within The Purgation that strengthen this theme, but it all boils down to the perception of the two main characters. Iris can see that there is something unusual happening in Black Falls, but her foil, Eddie (Johnston), can only see the unraveling of a broken mind.
The script is amazingly chilling at times and, paired with the score, can cause goosebumps. Between a terrifying rendition of the Lord’s Prayer and a demonic voice promising your descent into hell, this script is bound to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. The employment of symbolism is very well done. The use of God and Christian imagery, usually represented by the character of Marlene (Kate Dauphin, Martina D’Ovidio), shows that an idea, no matter how real it is perceived, can be comforting in times of crisis. While Iris struggles with her grasp on reality, Marlene explains that, sometimes, the imaginary can be better than reality. Overall, I would say it is very well written.
The acting is also superb. Tiffany Kieu is able to capture Iris’ descent into madness perfectly while Kat Johnston is amazing at being the down-to-earth, maternal figure that Iris needs to stay grounded. Kieu’s performance was emotional and genuine, really making the audience believe Iris’ struggle. Johnston’s performance was just as genuine and nuanced, creating a very real distinction between Eddie’s sanity and Iris’ insanity. The rest of the cast does a terrific job at being either intensely terrifying or incredibly helpful, respectively.
All in all, The Purgation is one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. Having seen it in different stages of post-production, I am very happy with the final cut. It definitely deserves its win for Best Feature from the Los Angeles Independent Artist Film Festival. Once it is officially released, I highly recommend that you see this film.
UPDATE 11/8/2015: Elaine Chu’s The Purgation is to be played at Regal Cinema LA Live in Los Angeles for one night only on November 8, 2015. After this run, the movie will be available for VOD early 2016. For more information and to keep updated about the film’s official release, you can visit their Facebook page or their website.
There’s no place like Hell.