A Savage Look at “PURGATORY ROAD”


On the highways of Mississippi, a psychotic priest and his brother are on a crusade to absolve sinners with their own brand of murder.


I recently met MARK SAVAGE in person at a book signing for ITS ALIVE: BRINGING YOUR NIGHTMARES TO LIFE (out now from CRYSTAL LAKE PRESS) and I dig the guy.

He and I were both in the same nonfiction book and have many of the same horror industry friends, so after a ride back to my car where we bonded over the admiration of Joel M. Reed and shlock exploitation film-making in general, I offered to take a look at his latest film. I watched it. I FREAKING LOVED IT!

I loved it so much in fact, I watched it a second time, which is high praise as I believe you only truly LOVE a film you’d watch again.

I was blown away by one of my new favorite actresses Trista Robinson who owned every scene she was in as Mary Francis. My gawd did she! I’d buy any book she narrated with that crazy squeaky voice that puts Sherri Moon Zombie outa a job. She was all things both sexy and dangerous and what else can we ask for in a femme fatale?!

Here’s the problem… My fear was… that I was not being objective. Did I just love it because I am buddies with Savage? I don’t think so, but I don’t know… so I needed a fresh, unbiased, and possibly even harshly honest look at it; I knew just the guy… so I reached out to one of my favorite horror writer frenemies, Jeff DePew.

Jeff and I share many similar interests including Lovecraftian-inspired occult detective comic book writings and the love of horror in general but he’s also not afraid to disagree with me over everything from how to cut a pizza to the aspect ratio on my television set. I like him and respect him so I asked him to watch my new favorite horror flick and give me his real unfiltered thoughts.

So here they are: **His thoughts on the plot-points include SPOILERS**


A note: Don’t think that I’m Mr. Negative. I’m really not. But I have high standards for movies. And I know it’s low budget.  I watched it and took notes, so this is thought out. Let me start off by saying that I am a huge fan of low budget horror. The original The Evil Dead is one of my favorite movies of all time.  The Blair Witch Project was new and original and ratcheted up the suspense, a created a whole sub genre of horror with the POV cinema verite’ thing. More recently,  It Follows was a fresh, original idea that was executed well(except maybe for the ending). The Witch was a slow build of suspense that culminated in a fantastic, surprising ending. In my mind, these are all examples of solid, well-made low budget horror movies. Unfortunately, I cannot add Purgatory Road to that list. I felt this move was predictable, stiff and left me with more questions than answers.

The concept is solid (a murderous priest and his brother drive around killing people) but logistically, it doesn’t make sense. Presumably, they live in a small town. The sheriff knows them. They go to the same diner. They are asked several times about missing girls. So people know them. But nobody suspects them. Probably the most important question I have is “Who in their right mind would get inside that van?”  A white, windowless van with crazy religious phrases scrawled all over it? Hello? It practically screams “serial killer inside!” As far as Mary Francis goes, she was not nearly as attractive as they made her out to be. Her baby voice was super annoying. What was the point of having her call into the radio show? Was she just an unrepentant psychopath? She didn’t seem to have any motive for killing other than money. She was really tough, though. [ETC.]


Well that’s one way to look at it. Personally, I thought it was FUN. The kind of BRAIN DAMAGE – CHILD’S PLAY check your reality at the door and just fall into it FUN. No need to overthink it. I felt the introduction of the mystery of what is in the basement, the call-ins to the radio (shades of Romero’s MARTIN), and more kept me wondering what will happen next. I really liked it. Is it perfect? No, its fun for a horror fan and that’s what I look for in my film watching. I talked with Savage online recently with thoughts and questions:


CHIZMAR: Are you sure you’re cool with my buddy watching the screener too?

SAVAGE: Tim, definitely good with your buddy reviewing it. Feel free to hand him link if he wants. Enjoy the second screening and happy to answer any questions.

CHIZMAR: Weeee! I got a question right now – the girl robber at the beginning, random? Or was it the mom leaving him? Or anything important we should know – ??

SAVAGE: The girl robber has a similar profile to Mary Francis, the psycho girl Vincent will meet later. The mother is the corpse that crashes to the floor in the second scene. She has been shotgunned to death by dad as part of an intended double suicide that dad, of course, fucks up. I’m showing that dad is already a fairly unhinged kind of guy. In the novel, a lot more background on dad.

CHIZMAR: Filmmaker to filmmaker I LOVE that you created your own rules for the world. Such as Mary just up and killing a guy and them letting her join the team. Wild.

SAVAGE: Thank you. Vincent is very black and white, and Mary stepping to shoot the escapee made her an instant heroine while putting Michael in the bad books. It’s like when you’re in a relationship for quite a while and your girlfriend acknowledges nothing good about you, yet the first person who does a small nice thing becomes a hero who is immediately reflected back on you. Fun times! I appreciate your “getting” the movie, Tim. Means so much coming from a successful fellow filmmaker and writer.

CHIZMAR: When the [REDACTED] was killed I was sad. I really was rooting for [X].

SAVAGE: I’m glad people have felt bad about the [X] being killed. That’s the point of horror, right? To visit death or the fear of death on people we care about.

CHIZMAR: What do you have to say to critics that have negative comments about your work?

SAVAGE: It’s not my problem if someone is not attuned to what I’m doing, and I’m not in the business of creating things that satisfy the specific tastes of one critic or another. In every sense, people will like or dislike you. As artists, we create worlds, and we can’t create unique worlds or unique narratives if we focus too much on the tastes of others. Criticism comes with the territory, as does appreciation. Whether you’re writing books or making films, the critic who matters is yourself.




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