Onscreen text introduces us to the tale of a family who went missing under mysterious circumstances, having recently moved to a skiing resort in the California Mountains. The following film, we're assured, is a compilation of video footage shot by the family, and fresh interviews with both friends and experts drafted in afterwards to investigate the case.
Yes, we're back in found-footage/faux documentary territory - again!
We first meet the family en route to their new home. In the car we have father Bruce (Steve Jacques), mother Jennifer (Carolyn O'Brien), rebellious teenage daughter Casey (Alana Chester) and oversized younger son Manny (David Mendoza). Also along for the ride is Casey's boyfriend Mark (Tomas Decurgez).
So, the event is being captured for posterity on a VHS camcorder. Which means we suffer an inordinate amount of mundane footage: the family eating burgers, Bruce and Jennifer discussing where their belongings should go in the new home, Manny performing a "puppet show" with his fingers for the benefit of the camera ... the type of stuff you can't imagine any sane person wanting to capture on film.
But then, this family weren't particularly normal. At least, not according to the observers called upon to comment on them. Friends and neighbours describe Jennifer as having weird mood swings, Casey as a druggie and Mark as someone potentially capable of murder. Bruce is the only one given the benefit of being considered "normal".
As the video footage trundles on without event, we learn from the intermittent posthumous comments that the family went missing without explanation, a heavy trail of blood in their home suggesting they were tortured, killed and dragged to the nearby lake. But there, the trail ended - and their bodies have never been recovered. Detectives were baffled; paranormal investigators insist there is an evil presence in the house which may be responsible for whatever fate befell this dysfunctional family. Meanwhile, residents of the Mammoth Mountain resort where this happened deny any involvement - and put the disappearance of several other holiday-makers in recent years down to the deeds of visiting miscreants.
As is the norm with this ilk of film, we're clued up as to something terrible being about to happen from the start, only for the details of such to be drip-fed to us over an extended period. THE PURGING HOUR adheres to this law, which at least resulted in it holding my attention as I was intrigued to see if the "footage" - which the opening text states was discovered on the "dark web" - cleared things up.
I had an inkling, of course, from the start that my perseverance wasn't going to be rewarded. And, no, it wasn't.
Considering THE PURGING HOUR is only 80 minutes in length, this one is a hard slog to the finishing line. The family are fairly likeable, I suppose, but they're dull. They offer little of interest or wit during the first 70 minutes. Nothing. Even their arguments (Bruce challenging Casey about whether she may have been sneakily smoking in the woods earlier in the evening, for example) are pretty lame. There's nothing to hold the attention. And there's very little suggestion of threat either. It's like watching the most colourless home video ever.
The family are attractive (especially Chester and O'Brien) so, superficially, this does get the viewer on side. But as they bicker, lark about and prepare food, you soon forget this and start wishing ill fates upon them. Not so much because they deserve to be torn apart, but because we're watching a horror film - right? - and nothing's happening!
The final ten minutes up the ante but it's all very predictable. Shaky camera footage which suffers from video static during crucial moments of onscreen violence. Lots of panicked screaming. An abrupt cut at the end. And as for the final minute of footage which is preceded by the enticing text disclaimer "The following footage has been digitally remastered to reveal new evidence" ... well, I watched it twice to see if I was missing something crucial, and can only assume that, indeed, I did. Unless writer-director Emmanuel Giorgio Sandoval has hoodwinked me and there really is nothing to be gained from those fleeting final images.
Performances are pretty natural within the family, which is a bonus, but a lot of the interview segments suffer from unconvincing acting. Which, when you're trying to get your audience to suspend disbelief and accept that what they're seeing is a documentary, is a pretty major stumbling block.
THE PURGING HOUR comes to region-free DVD courtesy of MVD Visual.
It's presented uncut and in its original ratio. This is 16x9 widescreen for the interview segments and 4:3 for the VHS footage. The visual presentation is good, but bear in mind of course that the quality fluctuates between digital and monologue video. Still, there are no noise or compression issues, colours are well represented and detail is fine throughout.
English 2.0 audio is reliable for the duration of playback too. Some of the interviewer's questions are muffled, but forced English subtitles account for these instances.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. An animated scene selection option allows access to the film via 9 chapters.
There are no supplementary features.
THE PURGING HOUR has little to recommend it. I endured it because I was obligated to review it. You don't have that hanging over you.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by MVD Visual|
|see main review|