Purgatory House

Helmer Cindy Baer reconstitutes Jean-Paul Sartre's "No Exit" as MTV-ready fantasy in "Purgatory House," a striking but simplistic indie drama. Written by lead player Celeste Davis, 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.

With:
With: Celeste Davis, Jim Hanks, Johnny Pacar, Devin Wit, Rhiannon Main, Howard Lockie.

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.

Purgatory House

Production: A Free Dream Pictures production. Produced, directed by Cindy Baer. Screenplay, Celeste Davis.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Christopher S. Nibley; editor, K.J. Garcia; music, John Swihart; production designer, James W. Thompson Jr. Reviewed on videocassette, Houston, May 4, 2004. (In WorldFest/Houston, Dances With Films and Palm Beach film festivals.) Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Celeste Davis, Jim Hanks, Johnny Pacar, Devin Wit, Rhiannon Main, Howard Lockie.

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