• Purgatory Road (Unearthed Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Unearthed Films
    Released on: February 12th, 2019.
    Director: Mark Savage
    Cast: Gary Cairns, Luke Albright, Trista Robinson, Geoff Falk, Tom Parnell
    Year: 2017
    Purchase From Amazon

    Purgatory Road – Movie Review:

    Purgatory Road opens with a scene where a young boy named Vincent is unable to stop a thief from stealing his father’s savings. Shortly after this, his father commits suicide in front of his two sons. This turns out to be something that Vincent blames himself for as he grows into adulthood. It also results in Vincent finding religion, and hard.

    As an adult, Vincent (Gary Cairns) works as a priest, albeit one with a rather unorthodox modus operandi – he and his brother Michael (Luke Albright) drive the highways of the American southwest in a large van, offering salvation and confession to anyone interested. There is, of course, a bit of quirk to all of this, besides the obvious: they tend to kill anyone who confesses to thievery, in hopes of saving their souls, of course. When a woman named Mary-Francis (Trista Robinson) takes an interest in what they’re doing, she proves her loyalty to them by murdering someone who threatens to expose the truth behind their ‘ministry.’ This quickly endears her to Vincent, which results in an offer to join them on their journey, but things quickly spiral out of control for all involved. When Michael takes an interest in a local woman named Ruby (Sylvia Grace Crim), his relationship with Vincent starts to show signs of cracking.

    Directed by Mark Savage (read our interview with him here!), and co-written by Savage and actor Tom Parnell, Purgatory Road is as grim as it is compelling and well-made. Hardly ‘feel good movie of the year material,’ it’s a tightly paced picture that borrows from films like The Confessional while still cutting out its own unique path. Setting the film in the American Southwest gives it its own unique feeling and Savage and cinematographer Andrew Giannetta do a fine job of using this backdrop to help build a very specific type of atmosphere. The dusty locals contrast of the exteriors contrast in interesting ways with the lighting used inside the confessional can. It’s here, inside the van, that the film makes use of some bold lighting choices, using strong primary hues to bath those baring their secrets to Vincent in eerie shades of red and yellow. For a film made on a modest budget, the visuals here and the production values that go alongside them are impressive.

    Performances from the main leads are good, sometimes very good. Cairns is a strong choice to play Vincent. He has a very sort of staunch look to him so that when he speaks what he believes are his religious truths, he does so with enough conviction to convince the audience he means it. He and Albright, also quite good here, have a good chemistry and we can buy them as brothers without any trouble. Initially, Trista Robinson seems like she might be a weak link but her performance will win you over – she turns out to be great in the part, we just can’t go into much detail about it or we’d head into spoiler territory.

    The movie does have one flaw worth pointing out, and that’s that the murder set pieces, while strong in both content and execution, get a bit repetitive – but this is easy to forgive when the bulk of the film works as well as it does.

    Purgatory Road – Blu-ray Review:

    Unearthed Films brings The Purgatory Road to Blu-ray using an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Shot on HD digital video, there’s obviously no print damage or grain here. The picture has very nice color reproduction going for it and pretty solid black levels as well. Typically, detail is strong, though there are some scenes where the colored lighting dilutes things a tad. Still, this was likely done on purpose as it suits the tone of the scenes in question quite nicely. No noticeable compression issues to complain about here, and all in all, the picture quality is solid enough.

    The English language LPCM 2.0 Stereo track on the disc is problem free. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout the duration of the movie. Balance is fine and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion.

    Extras start off with a feature length commentary track featuring director/co-writer Mark Savage and co-writer/actor Tom Parnell. It’s an interesting and informative track with the two discussing where some of the themes and ideas that the picture explores came from, working with the cast and crew, locations that were used for the shoot, casting the picture, changing up certain aspects of the script as the production progressed and quite a bit more. The track goes at a good pace and it’s worth a listen if you want to know more about what went into making this picture.

    After that, dig into a twenty-minute Q&A session featuring Savage and actor Gary Cairns wherein they talk about working primarily with local talent in terms of casting the film (leads excepted), their approach to making horror pictures, contributions of the different cast and crew members and more. The disc also contains a twenty-nine-minute featurette with actors Gary Cairns and Luke Albright and actress Trista Robinson entitled The Actors Speak. Here the two cast members explain their thoughts on the characters that they play, their impressions of the script, their thoughts on the film and more. Parnell shows up again in an eight-minute featurette called Beyond The Day Job where he talks about how he got into screenwriting, collaborating with Savage and what it was like to work with him and his approach to acting. All of these pieces are put together nicely and quite interesting.

    Additionally, we get a still gallery that showcases ‘The Grisly Art Of Marcus Kock & Cat Bernier’ and trailers for Brutal, Dark Side of the Moon and The Song Of Solomon.

    Purgatory Road – The Final Word:

    Purgatory Road is tense stuff, a grim slice of religiously themed horror told with style and performed by a pretty solid cast. Savage keeps the pacing quick yet still manages to craft interesting characters to hold our attention, while the story offers a few genuinely unexpected twists and turns before it all wraps up. The Blu-ray release from Unearthed Films is a good one, presenting the picture in very nice shape, with solid lossless audio and with a good collection of extra features as well. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Purgatory Road Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Keeth's Avatar
      Keeth -
      I watched it last night & thought it was well-made, etc. but the female character I didn't like at all esp. her squeaky voice. I need to check the director's past movies out again. Not sure P.R. is one I'll be re-visiting any time soon.