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.
For people who want to experience horror outside of movies, television, books, and other forms of media, haunted houses are a more direct source of scares. They’re dark and filled with horrific imagery that you experience up close and personal. They are particularly popular around Halloween, when people get into the spirit of the frightening. Horror houses pop up in friendly neighborhoods as people want to give their community a night to remember.
House of Purgatory is a 2016 movie about a group of high schoolers at a Halloween party who decided to seek out the scariest haunted house that they had ever heard of. There were rumors that a group of people their age went to a haunted house up the highway and were never seen again. They wanted to do better. The House of Purgatory was a shed in a field that led to underground levels of horror filled sights and frights. As the friends travelled further down, they uncovered secrets about their past that they never wanted to experience again.
The movie started slowly. The introduction was fine, but the first portion of the haunted house was lackluster. It ended up being the characters walking from room to room without much in terms of the secrets promised. There was a slight hint at something here, and a sight hint at something there, but for the most part, they were walking through old-timey looking rooms. It was repetitive and boring.
What worked was the stuff that followed the introduction. When the secrets started bubbling to the surface and the characters actually faced their fates, things picked up. It went from a simple story of people walking through a haunted house to people being in danger. Their lives were at stake, and it heightened the tension. The pacing improved. The visuals were better. They went to new locations, which made for better variation in where things could play out. The movie went from mediocre to passable when the story actually kicked in. It just took too long to get there.
Most of the performances were perfectly fine. The actors themselves were distracting in how much they looked like other people from other projects, but that is outside of their control. One performance held the entire movie together though. The guy who ran the House of Purgatory, credited as The Skeleton (Brian Krause), was a presence throughout the crucial parts of the story. He was behind the secrets. He ensured that each of the teens would be treated to living through some of the deepest, darkest aspects of their lives. The Skeleton was an ever present menace, creating terror for the characters who entered his house. This role was the most critical of the movie since he was the predator to the prey that was the group. Krause brought a solid showing that stood out among the other standard horror performances.
Halloween didn’t stand out as much as would be expected of a movie set on that day. The only real importance was that it set up the party at the beginning and the legend of the haunted house. Once the characters entered the shed, Halloween was no longer important. They were not wearing their costumes. They didn’t mention the day. The characters were diving into the secrets that they hadn’t told their friends or family, and none of those storylines needed Halloween. The day helped build the horror tension, but was completely unnecessary beyond the reasoning behind the party and legend.
That said, House of Purgatory was still an okay movie. It had slow moments, particularly in the early portions, but got better as it went on. The idea was intriguing and could make for a very entertaining franchise, if continued. There are seeds of something great. It just didn’t reach that potential. It’s not a movie to seek out but it’s also not something that would be immediately turned off. It’s okay, if you can get through that first half. House of Purgatory is an interesting, though flawed movie.