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By Stina Chyn | December 16, 2004

The concept of Hell varies from culture to culture and religion to religion. Some painters create a portrait of Hell as a generally unappealing place. This kind of Hell is usually on fire and there’s no end to the number of tortured souls hobbling around for shelter. Here in the beginning of the 21st Century, there are other interpretations of Hell available to those who don’t completely believe in the brimstone of Hellfire Preaching. For instance, Richard Matheson’s novel “What Dreams May Come” and Vincent Ward’s 1998 film adaptation place their characters in personal hells. After all, one person’s hell could very well be another person’s heaven.

Dan Huber and Alex Kang, who’ve been friends as well as classmates from seventh grade all the way through NYU, have a similar perspective on the afterlife. Their short film “Career Suicide” suggests that hell can only be Hell if it corresponds to a particular individual’s life. In other words, it’s what you don’t like about your life (with the possibility of some pleasant surprises). For Sandy (Deborah Vancelette), the in-a-hurry and chronically late secretary, Hell is filing in the Archives room of Retribution: The Purgatory Company as well as getting a guilt trip about tardiness from a motivational speaker named Ken Osgold (Chris Chauncey).

Why is Sandy’s Hell so fitting for her? The first scene introduces her as somebody who is klutzy, clingy, and not too friendly. As Tammy (Angela Kinsey), the head secretary of Purgatory, explains, Sandy is assigned the filing room because she accidentally killed herself by running with scissors, slipping on jam, and impaling herself. Sandy’s propensity for falling not only leads to her demise, but it also sticks with her in Hell. Whether it’s due to her standing in the wrong place or somebody startling her, Sandy falls down several times. Her apparent inability to understand the idea of a one-night-stand also manifests itself in Purgatory. Rod (Colin Ferguson, whom you may recognize from NBC’s short-lived sitcom “Coupling”), is the cute mailroom guy that catches Sandy’s fancy. They share a few moments and a near-kiss. Sandy thinks it’s love, but Rod’s moved right on to a newly deceased, vacuous minded blonde.

Anyone who enjoys the idea of Hell and all its possibilities in terms of location, décor, and forms of punishment will excitedly welcome “Career Suicide” for its concept of the afterlife.

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