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Review: Tyler Christensen’s House of Purgatory (2016)

house-of-purgatory-tyler-christensen-movie-posterAt this point there’s just something synonymous about high schoolers getting killed and Halloween night. The precedent was set up with Halloween in 1978, obviously, and that underlying plot has been expanded upon and expanded upon over the years. But, one thing is always for certain – the final week of October you can’t channel surf your cable networks without finding an onslaught of horror titles about teens in trouble. This Halloween, why not make House of Purgatory one of those movies? If you can ignore the terrible poster art (I’m sorry…), then I guarantee you’ll find a fun movie to sit around at home and watch with your friends. Here’s why.

Terror Films has been distributing a lot of new titles in the last few weeks and, in my opinion, House of Purgatory is probably the best item in their catalogue. It falls into the very definition of horror and it captures the essence of Halloween, giving genre buffs a new title to examine and talk about in 2016. It’s important to note that it captures this mood effortlessly and it’s not dark enough that it excludes any age groups. In fact, House of Purgatory also delivers mild amounts of whit as well as it tackles social norms such as child/parent dynamics and the plight of the LGBT community. Characters are forced to confront their deepest psychological fears as they navigate the halls of the town’s urban legend, a fun-house of sorts that pays YOU for every floor you escape. I think I see some parallels there, and much more than meets the eye! This may need a second viewing…

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House of Purgatory is different from other urban legend movies because the four central youths willingly put themselves in harms way; though they believe the fun-house to be nothing but a joke. Brian Krause serves as the gatekeeper to Hell instead of an angel sent to protect young witches. (I had to do one “Charmed” reference. That was my show.) But, this begs a couple of questions that could be explored in a sequel. Who is he? How old is he? How’d he get that job? And where did Purgatory House come from in the first place? To me, Krause had the most interesting character yet he wasn’t expanded upon enough. He stars in House of Purgatory alongside Anne Leighton (“Grimm,” “The Young and the Restless”), Laura Coover (“Castle,” “Mike and Molly”), Marika Engelhardt (“Empire,” “Patriot”), Brad Fry, Aaron Galvin, Elaine Ivy Harris, Lisa Musser and Dustin James. There aren’t any characters added for an unnecessary body count and the core group receives a lot of development. They’re involved in a slow burn trip to Hell and you have to relate to at least one of them to enjoy the ride.

Despite being an independent production, House of Purgatory has a terrific quality of film and pulled off great cinematography with stunning visuals. The lit jack-o-lanterns hanging upside down from the trees was my favorite, followed by the perfectly lit mob scene when one of the youth’s is attacked in the school gym. The set decoration of the fun-house was great and I can’t help but to wonder whether it was a real Halloween attraction or something the production whipped up overnight. Very pleasing to the eye, indeed. Tyler Christensen – the writer, director, producer and assistant editor of House of Purgatory – knows what he’s doing; having transitioned from an assistant editor on “Finding Bigfoot” and challenge producer on “Killer Karaoke” to a full fledged film-maker. An interesting story, a house that wants to kill you, beautiful visuals and a capable group of actors was just what this film needed to stay lit considering there isn’t any blood and guts until about an hour into the movie. And even then it’s not the goriest batch of scenes. However, we, as horror fans, know that the best stories aren’t always the bloodiest!

House of Purgatory debuted on most VOD platforms yesterday, October 21st, and I definitely think you should add it to your Halloween watch list. It’s definitely worth the price of a stream and it gives you a different option outside the world of slashers and golden oldies. Check it out. Final Score: 7 out of 10.

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Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)

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