House of Purgatory (2016) – Movie Review

Ever since 2014’s horrific The Houses October Built, haunted attractions have been scarier than ever. The idea that, behind those howling wolves, flashing lights and jump scares, there’s really something out there that wants to kill you in unnerving. The whole reason people love visiting haunted house attractions is because it gives them a chance to be scared shitless but in a relatively safe environment. But what if those chainsaws are real? What if the meat cleaver blade is actually sharp and the screams you hear are coming from the pre-slaughtered victims of some insane family of psychos? What if, after all that, the haunt could take your deepest, darkest secret and slap you across the face with its bloody stump? Two years after the release of The Houses October Built, Tyler Christensen’s House of Purgatory picks up where that first deadly haunt movie left off, taking the idea of a deadly Halloween attraction to a whole new level.

Written and directed by Tyler Christensen, House of Purgatory stars Anne Leighton (Grimm TV series), Laura Coover (How To Get Away With Murder TV series), Wedding Bells & Shotgun Shells‘ Aaron Galvin and Brad Fry, as well as Charmed angel Brian Krause. Released October 21, 2016, House of Purgatory was co-produced by Christensen and Travis Moody while Twilight‘s Patrick Giraudi teamed up with Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Kurt Oldman to compose the music.

“Nothing is hidden inside this place. Abandon all hope for it cannot penetrate these walls.”

The film tells the story of a group of teens (and I use the word “teens” here loosely – these guys looked like they were closer to thirty than sixteen) at a Halloween party who decide to take a road trip to try and find a rumored haunted house attraction called the House of Purgatory. Supposedly, the place is so scary that if you make it to the end, you get your admission money back. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Amber (Coover), Ryan (Fry), Nate (Galvin) and Melanie (Leighton) find the House of Purgatory but are seriously underwhelmed. Not only is it a tiny shack, but it’s completely empty on Halloween night. How scary could it possibly be?

It doesn’t take long for them to realize that this place may be a bit deadlier than they had first imagined. For one thing, the place is much bigger on the inside than on the outside, and rather than go up, the stairs in the House of Purgatory go down into the earth. One by one, the teens find clues inside the house’s rooms that someone – or something – knows their deepest, darkest secrets and will stop at nothing to make sure these kids own up to what they did. They’re followed by a man in skull face (Krause) who helps them along even as he tortures them with their once hidden memories. Will any of them escape their own personal horror and make it out of the House of Purgatory alive?

Considering that this was the first time in both the writer’s and director’s seat for Christensen, I think he did a fantastic job in House of Purgatory. The suspense built slowly but evenly, tightening like a air of medieval thumbscrews. He didn’t leave too much extraneous footage in the film to bulk up its 75 minute run, a trap many first time directors fall into and something that leaves viewers bored and irritated.

I also thought the secrets of the teens were relatable and believable. I could totally see kids in today’s world keeping these same secrets, things that would eventually tear them up inside. In House of Purgatory, those secrets tore them up on the outside, too. I was also pleasantly surprised that the characters were not all annoying slasher fodder that I couldn’t wait to see bite it. They were actually, for the most part, decent people who happened upon this house in the woods. There isn’t much in the way of gore, but the film makes up for that with it’s intense, creepy storytelling that had me twitching on the edge of my seat.

The film was an official selection at the Fear Fete Horror Film Festival where star Anne Leighton was nominated for Best Actress in a Feature Film, as well as screening at LA’s Shriekfest. Not only is House of Purgatory available on iTunes (here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/house-of-purgatory/id1142832334), Xbox, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu, PlayStation, YouTube, and Vimeo On Demand, but it will also be released on Amazon Prime in the near future. Check it out for a new take on an old haunt!

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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