First-time helmer Cindy Baer reconstitutes Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” as MTV-ready fantasy in “Purgatory House,” a visually striking but simplistic indie drama. Written by lead player Celeste Davis — who, at 14, may be the youngest scribe ever given sole scripting credit for a feature — pic could attract a cult following among adolescents who empathize with the self-pitying, self-dramatizing protagonist. But awkward performances, naive storyline and pandering, cop-out ending will turn off most viewers old enough to vote.
Davis plays Silver Strand, a moody teen who commits suicide because she’s bummed about her life as a semi-Goth outcast. She wakes up in a purgatory that resembles a seedy halfway house for at-risk youths, under the watchful eye of white-suited Saint James (Jim Hanks, looking and sounding a lot like his older brother, Tom). “Purgatory” works best when it focuses on mildly clever details of dreary afterlife routine: Silver must always wear the same clothes and make-up she died in, and must monitor activities of surviving friends and family on the “earthTV” network. Broadly comical interludes, including a sequence that depicts God as a drag-queenly gameshow host, are painfully lame.