What is atonement? When have we balanced out the debt that we have to the world? The idea of retribution and cleansing ourselves is central to western horror fiction; flawed people have to face their flaws and find a way of addressing the sins those flaws have caused. How far do we have to go down to face that we’ve fallen?
A relatively low budget piece, Purification is sort of the black sheep cousin to It’s a Wonderful Life. A deeply flawed, angry real estate man in New York starts slipping back and forth between limbo to face the ghosts of people who he’s wronged-the girlfriend who died because he was more concerned with his reputation than her safety, the child who died eating lead paint in his building. I think one of the major flaws that the film had was that while some of the ghosts are deeply personal, some of them are just stuck in limbo with his personal ghosts, and while ultimately the ones that he’s tied to are introduced as such, some of them are just left hanging. It can be hard to figure out which ones are which.
One of the ultimately most effective scenes is a fairly drawn out flashback sequence involving a funeral parlor and a child who discovers life isn’t always what it looks like, literally. As the movie moves forward the stories become more involved-and slightly stranger. Our main character starts encountering not just the ghosts in limbo but some of their motives, or what may be seen as ghosts of motives. There’s a fairly odd scene involving a bomber with a flawed design.
If low budget horror with fairly original ideas is a genre you enjoy and you can overcome some of the stilted acting, Purification actually was a pretty interesting movie.