Movie Review: HOUSE OF PURGATORY

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house of purgatoryTerror Films
2016
NR

‘Tis the Halloween Season, mein wundabar freaks. While I’m technically not doing a HALLOWEEN’ING series on the blog this year, I still like to watch movies that feature Halloween as the primary focus. Or at least set during the Greatest Season of the Year. And as such, I came across the movie House Of Purgatory, which was recently made available on DVD, but also for Prime streamin’, so I decided to turn off the lights, and see what kind of spooky shenanigans the stock characters would be getting into.

Sorry, maybe I’m unfairly judging the movie before actually watching it. Force of habit. Let’s take a look, then.

Four teenagers go looking for a legendary haunted house that gives you money back for every floor you can complete. Once finding it, they realize the house is much more terrifying than a normal Halloween attraction — the house knows each of their secrets and one by one uses them against the teens.

So, what we have with House Of Purgatory is your standard low budget teens-in-a-haunted-something-or-other movie that tries so hard to be an effective psychological mind trip of a horror movie that it’s rather adorable, really. The cast is your typical older 20-somethings playing the teenagers, the lot being forgettable personality types. There’s a bit at the beginning that had me thinking that this was going to be another lame Scream knock-off, but fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Things did pick up once the gang hit the titular haunted house, actually managing to get some good effects and shots in. However, the promise of delving into deep, dark secrets falls flat with the dismount, leaving this House Of Purgatory promising you Disney World’s Haunted Mansion attraction, but ending up being the second-rate haunted house setup the local civic group puts on at the town auditorium.

It really says something when the premise of your horror movie was already done way better with an old episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer*. House Of Purgatory is fun like a trip to a Spirit Of Halloween store is fun. Worth a look if you’re morbidly curious, or have nothing else to watch for the holiday.

[*=Season 4, Episode 4: “Fear Itself”…go watch that one instead]

Movie Review: CANDILAND

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candilandMotorcycle Boy Productions
2016
NR

Peter, a failed tennis star, is struggling to rebuild his life after a car accident forces the end of his career. Angry at the world’s consumerist values and his controlling father, Arnie, whom he blames for being absent during his mother’s dying days, Peter is desperately searching for a moment’s peace. In an attempt at normality, he heads to a bar for a night out, where he encounters recently divorced and grieving Tess, abandoned and lonely. Finding solace in each other’s brokenness, they withdraw to Peter’s apartment and begin a sensual love affair. Days of bliss pass by, and when Tess reluctantly tries to leave to deal with he aftermath of her divorce, Peter proposes an idea: isolate themselves in his apartment to create their own reality–CANDiLAND. Now cut off from the world, the tormented lovers embark on a dogmatic quest for a higher existence. But their possessive love descends into a surreal savagery as Arnie attempts to reconnect with his son and put an end to CANDiLAND.

The second movie that I rented based solely on the cover artwork itself, Candiland seems to be the oddity of the three. Which is saying quite a bit, considering my genre tastes and what the other two were about. Candiland was listed as a “psychological horror”, which in a way it is. But more of the way that a Chuck Palahniuk novel is listed as “psychological horror” because there’s really no way to find a genre descriptor that can do justice to what was just experienced.

Not that Candiland is a good movie, per se. It is an ambitious mind scramble, and I can certainly appreciate what the filmmakers were going for. But the execution of the movie? It was quite a bit disjointed, to say the very least. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, here.

Based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Engstrom, Candiland shows the downward spiral of a couple that have isolated themselves from the world due to being emotionally damaged by families and love. Slowly they both descend into madness while shutting out the outside world completely (I call it the Pink Floyd’s The Wall Maneuver), which results into all sorts of insane wackiness when the outside world does try to make a connection. Like, say, when the overbearing father of one of them tries to save his son from himself. Mind-bending wackiness ensues.

Candiland…or CANDiLAND, I guess, going by the movie’s official descriptor, is an interesting movie, to say the very least. On the one hand, it’s an interesting study into the mental and emotional decay of a clearly unstable manic depressive individual, who happens to take his girlfriend along on this ride (she was rather keen about joining him, it seems), taking the Syd Barrett approach to mental happiness. They shut themselves inside his apartment, creating their own world in which time is banned, all that exists is them (with the occasional unavoidable interruption from the “real world’ they’re trying to escape from), to the point in which they declare themselves gods of their reality, and finally forgetting to eat and bathe and…well, you get the idea. Add into this crazy stew a father who wants to help his son, but goes about it the way someone who only has a hammer as their tool goes about opening a jar of pickles, if you get my drift. The filming and the editing add to the overall sense of slippage pretty effectively, and on that level, CANDiLAND works pretty well. However…

Boy, are the characters annoying. Just, bloody annoying. To the point where I found myself shouting at the screen on more than one occasion, ‘Are you kidding? STOP THAT!” Especially at first, when they couple are in loooooooove and saying and doing things that threaten to empty out the contents of your stomach in a moment’s notice. It really says a lot when the character played by serial weirdo Gary Busey is the most sane character in the movie. And do you remember what I said earlier about the editing adding to the overall sense of slippage? Yeah…unfortunately, it also contributes to what makes CANDiLAND more disjointed rather than innovative. It’s clear there was a very small budget for this, and while they did their darnedest with what they had, it just wasn’t enough to really warrant watching this again.

Overall, CANDiLAND wasn’t terrible, but not really that good, either. It’s one of those movies that had some great ideas, but the execution slipped the rails somewhere.