By David Dent
Australian director Mark Savage certainly lived up to his name with his earlier work; titles like Marauders (1986), Sensitive New Age Killer (2000) and the excoriating Defenceless: A Blood Symphony (2004) were fine examples of Ozploitation that transcended the limits of their small budgets.
Since 2012 Savage has been alternating between Australia and the USA to make his films: Purgatory Road is as Southern as you like (it was shot in Mississippi) but in its own wry way is as dark and dangerous as any of his previous offerings.
As children brothers Vincent and Michael witness their newly penniless father shooting himself after failing to intercept an intruder who has taken very last dollar from him.
Growing up, Vincent (Gary Cairns) has gone into the priesthood, but both he and Michael (Luke Albright) still carry the scars of their childhood trauma; the pair operate a mobile confessional booth (it’s actually just a rusty old van modified for the purpose) called ‘Absolution on Wheels.’
But Vincent offers anything but spiritual relief to those poor parishioners who confess sins of stealing – they get a knife to the guts for their trouble. For Vincent has become a serial killing priest, despatching anyone who confesses to the same crime that caused dad to shoot himself all those years ago.
Back home Vincent and his brother – whose job is to drive the van and do a lot of looking the other way – chop up their victims and dump the entrails into the basement, where a certain something (or someone) waits for feeding time.
However Michael has formed an attachment to homely waitress Ruby (Sylvia Grace Crim) from the local diner and looks set to give up his aiding and abetting ways. But onto their scene arrives Mary Francis (Trista Robinson), not entirely unused to a little bloodletting of her own, and keen to join the activities of the brothers that slay together.
Purgatory Road is a moodily shot, impressively acted slice of southern gothic that for the most part presents itself as a live action horror comic. It’s only towards the end that its plot strands start to unravel a bit, but it’s a sick, often funny ride, with lots of local colour and some impressive gore effects. Special praise is reserved for Andrew Giannetta’s astonishing cinematography – especially his night work – and an impressive, lush score from Glen Gabriel.
Purgatory Road is out now on DVD & Blu Ray, order it Here