Friday, February 16, 2007

Purgatory House (2007)

Purgatory House is a feature length film written by 14-year-old Celeste Davis. Its compelling, intriguing and original story is painfully honest to the feelings of teenagers. While not quite a horror film, this insightful, independent production is a must-see.

Purgatory House tells the tale of young teen Silver Strand (Celeste Davis), who commits suicide to escape the pain and hurt of her life. Instead of finding the love she is seeking though, she is sent to spend eternity in Purgatory House, a place for wayward teens that have lost their way. Here she spends her days under the care of Saint James (Jim Hanks), watching her friends and family on EarthTV, reflecting on her earthly life and forming a relationship with another teen stuck there, Atticus (Devin Witt). The focus of Purgatory is to relive the pain they felt on Earth, so they have ready access to drugs but must forever wear the same clothes, makeup and hairstyle that they died wearing and repeat the cycle of hurt and abandonment.

Told from the unique perspective of a teen, Purgatory House is a brutally honest, raw and realistic look at the problems and feelings teens face every day. It tells the tale of the misunderstood, alienated and unhappy youth of today. Facing an uncaring school system, parents who don’t understand, fair-weather friends, easy access to drugs and the constant pressure from peers and society, Silver falls into a depressed state, finally deciding on taking her own life. Teens like this character face these challenges every day, and are mostly overlooked or not seen at all by society. It’s no wonder they feel so disconnected and lost from the world. Davis takes her own experiences as a teen and infuses them into this well-written and superbly directed movie to reach out to both teenagers and adults.

The script, written in its entirety by Davis, is realistic and doesn’t shy away from the truth. The dialogue is convincingly written and faithful to the way teens interact. It is also quite impressive and sophisticated coming from a 14-year-old. The story, set mainly in Purgatory with flashbacks to Celeste’s life counting down to the moment of her death, is interesting and original. The setting of Purgatory is quite inventive, especially to explore Silver’s life and how she came to commit suicide.

The direction, by Cindy Baer, was surprisingly excellent for it being her first feature directorial debut. Everything stayed true to Davis’ script and portrayed the right amount of emotion and intimacy that Davis was going for. The look of the film, both gritty and otherworldly, spoke volumes and added more depth to the film. The compositions of some scenes were breathtakingly beautiful. Just from the look and feel of the film it is apparent that a lot of love went into it. I don’t think the film would be the same if it were polished and slick looking. It would just lose too much emotion and realism.

For an independent film, the acting was surprisingly good. Celeste Davis played the lead of Silver Strand and no one could have done a better job. This was Davis’ first experience acting, and wow, does she put on a powerful performance! I never would have guessed she didn’t have any acting experience! The rest of the cast doesn’t shine as bright as Davis’ (this is her film!), but does a great job anyway. I particularly enjoyed Jim Hanks (brother of Tom), who does a wonderful job as the stoic and wise St. James, dressed in a dapper white tux.

This film is truly a revelation and is worth a watch just to see what a lot of love, passion and dedication can produce. Celeste Davis seems to have a very bright future ahead of her and I can’t wait to see what she does next. If you want a peek into the world of a teenager, check out the compelling, raw and realistic Purgatory House.

Available on Amazon!

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