Purgatory House review by Jettie Vanderveen

Purgatory House looks the kind of typical film that shows a “very unique” view of life, death, religion, and love, but it actually does! And though it is burdened by poorly delivered lines and unintentional ambient noise, a few well-constructed elements really pull it all together into a surprisingly pleasant film.

Silver Strand is a young teen who overdoses and dies, and since she has committed suicide, she’s stuck in purgatory for all eternity. She is trapped there forever with other teens who “expressed themselves with drugs, alcohol, self mutilation, sex, suicide.” There are no lessons to be learned there, no great acts to do, It’s almost like a psychiatric hospital mixed with a group-home.

The story jumps back and forth to show clips of Silver’s life on earth and her death in purgatory. She talks with the other teenagers there and they all share their views of God, religion, and their individual destinies.

Purgatory House takes a confusing concept and brings it to life, mixing a serious tone with a few laughs. For example, Silver waked up while in purgatory and the first words she mumble are, “Why did I set my alarm clock for 5 AM when I was alive?” Much to the viewer’s dismay, other lines throughout the film are said with either too much acting behind them or too little. Some of the actors seem completely invested in the film, while others put on performances overshadowed by even Disney Channel Original Movies.

Some of the actors are experienced, but most are working on their first big project, so there are high in hopes and low in talents. Only two of the actors have worked on other produced features before: Jim Hanks (Baby Geniuses... and we all know how amazing that was), and Johnny Pacar (Now You See It..., Flight 29 Down)

14-year-old Celeste Davis wrote this screenplay and appears to be the youngest screenwriter with his or her own produced film. She was in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program when she met Cindy Baer who directed and produced the film for her.

Though created by amateurs, the film has a very complete feel. Different techniques with the camera, editing, and computer graphics bring a sense of experimentation to the film that most films are too afraid to do.

The music in Purgatory House is probably the best I’ve heard in a movie in a long while. Each song that is played correlates with the scene it’s played in and makes a nice atmosphere. Many of the musicians gave the rights to use their music free of charge because they fell in love with the story behind the movie.

The film-makers try to keep it silent at times, but it doesn’t work 99% of the times they try it. If they had invested in a wind-sock, maybe the film would have a less home-made vibe to it.

Movies like these are hard to come by. On the one hand, they’re very good and you want to show them to all your friends. They have a certain wit and style that you really don’t find elsewhere. They have a unique way of looking at some important topics and presenting them in an interesting and engaging way.

On the other hand, movies like this suck because it wasn’t funded very well. If the budget had been higher for this movie, the end result would have looked and sounded a little more polished and purposeful. There were some instances when the viewer had to wonder if the camcorder was really for “effect”, or if it was just the only camera they had at hand (pun intended). The film-makers could have also hired some skilled actors, instead of just friends, so that the script got its money’s worth. The writing is very good in it, it only deserves a good cast.

The experimentation, music, message, and camera techniques are all so good in Purgatory House. It’s just a shame that some of the details were sketchy.

7 out of 10 Jackasses
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