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PURGATORY HOUSE
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Reviewed by: JimmyO

Directed by: Cindy Baer

Starring:
Celeste Davis
Jim Hanks
Devin Witt

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
A fourteen-year-old girl finds herself in purgatory, the place between heaven and hell, after a suicide attempt. When she gets there, she finds a few other whiny teens that are forced to live the life they tried to escape.
Is it good movie?

Okay… I guess I get to be the bad guy. As the DVD cover art claims, this is “a feature entirely written by a 14-year-old girl. Impressive… yes. Good… not really. When we first meet Silver Strand (yes, that is her name) played by the same 14-year-old girl mentioned, Celeste Marie Davis, she is depressed, whiny and in a place bizarro church talking about how God doesn’t care or something like that. We later learn that God may frequent the West Hollywood Halloween Festival because God is a drag queen. Silver ends up in a place called Purgatory House, a place for those who have died needless deaths where they must spend eternity for their sins. She struggles as she is forced to watch the empty lives of those she left behind on “EarthTV” and the pain she feels, we get to hear all about.

The problem for me is that I felt like I was in Purgatory watching this movie. You know those flicks that have the whiny kid who complains and moans for the entire film? Well, that is pretty much the entire movie with a bunch of annoying suicidal, drug addicted, molested, broken home teens who just want to be understood. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the suicide is bad message and you need to respect yourself thing but this IS coming from the mouth of a fourteen-year-old, so subtlety is out the window. As I said earlier, it is impressive that she put the script together and it sounds very much like teen speak. But you can only hear about it for so long that you just feel numb. I didn’t care about these kids or their families. It is interesting watching this in the aftermath of the recent VA Tech shooting because this really is a message that is important but Purgatory House is more along the lines of an Afterschool Special because nothing is black and white, but as a teen, thing can seem to be just that. Good for her for writing this and good for director Cindy Baer for helping her do it. But as entertainment goes… I didn’t feel it… nope, not at all.

There was a good idea here, and most of the acting was far better than you would expect from this type of low budget flick. And Tom’s brother Jim Hanks is very good in a couple of different roles. I also appreciated the moments without dialogue. In one instance, Silver is dreaming of happier times with her father which is quite heart-wrenching and another sequence has her watching “EarthTV” as images of school shootings on CNN play out. The simplicity is nice and it is a break from the painfully dull bitching and moaning. Cindy really plays with the images creating a different look for almost every scene in the film. It works some of the time, but it is a bit much during blurry dream sequences and a couple of very cheesy digital effects. Did I mention God is a drag queen? This was an interesting experiment and may actually be a good film to show Junior High and High School students.
Video / Audio
Video: The 1.78:1 Theatrical transfer is good but it still suffers from a low budget but that is a very minor complaint.

Audio: The 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo sound pretty good, especially when the surprisingly good soundtrack comes across. They used some interesting choices for the music here.
The Extras
The extras are good for a little film like this. They took time and care to give it a little boost. This includes The Making of Purgatory House (30:59) which paints a very touching picture of how this film was made and it almost made me feel bad for not liking it… I said almost. Director Cindy Baer talks about being a “Big Sister” (of the Big Brother, Big Sister organization) to a very troubled young girl named Celeste. Again, very touching and an interesting look at how Purgatory House came to be.

Next up we have Putting it all Together (17:36) where we get a glimpse at the special effects behind the film. Most of it done on “blue screen”, they were passable for such an inexpensive film. Although I think if they had gotten rid of some of the effects it might have worked a little better. MORE MONTAGE’S!

We also get a sweet little song from Larisa Stow with the accompanying music video for Claire’s Prayer (3:29). I actually kind of liked the song and the video, it sound it a bit like The Cranberries. Or maybe that is just me.

Another fun feature is the L.A. Premiere (17:14). It is one of the first screenings of the film for an audience with many of the cast members and the director doing a Q and A afterwards. Most of the stories you hear here, you’ve already listened to in the other featurettes. It is still kind of fun to watch these folks celebrate their movie, even if I didn’t really dig it.

Then come two Deleted Scenes including “Do we need to eat?” and “Cody is left behind”. I was thankful that they both were left behind.

Finishing off the disc we get two Trailers for this film which are on par with the film, thus didn’t really appeal to me. And finally, the message behind the film under a simple name Free Me. This leads to a number you can call if you are depressed or having really bad thoughts. Okay, fine… that was a nice touch.
Last Call
If Purgatory House hadn’t been written by a 14-year-old girl, nobody would have cared. But since she had lived it, it spoke to her and let her open up to what many teens feel. I won’t get too preachy here but let me just say, when you feel alone and depressed and want to die… guess what? Everybody has felt that way at one point and whether you find God, music, movies or masturbation, you should try and get help from anybody that you can. But as for the film itself… maybe the problem is that I’m not a 14-year-old girl and I just didn’t get it. Props to her and director Cindy Baer and everyone in the cast and crew for trying to help somebody deal but if you don’t want to hear a bunch of whiny teenagers… this is a movie to avoid.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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