Purgatory (2008)

Purgatory reviewReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Tim O’Hara, Andrew Lauer, Alex DeBoe, Jose Solano, Smokey, Thomas Carlton

Directed by John O’Callaghan

First things first, take a good hard look at the box art York Entertainment cooked up for Purgatory. This movie may be about white trash killers but The Moondogs on the cover look nothing like the ones that actually appear in the movie – even got the number of them wrong too. One of the film’s killers may look and act like a redneck hunter caricature, but the other is far more realistic than anyone portrayed here. These three on the DVD packaging look like cartoonish hillbilly professional wrestlers that the Batten Twins or The Southern Rockers would have feuded with back in the day. The head of the skinny old guy on the far right looks like it’s been Photoshopped onto someone else’s body, for goodness sake. Good old York Entertainment; not only do they not even bother with menu screens anymore, now they’re slapping artwork on their DVDs that almost seem to have been designed to make people not want to watch the movie they’re putting out.

Then again, making people not want to watch Purgatory might be a good thing. Within the first 10-minutes I was already feeling both bored and annoyed. Bad enough that the movie gets off to such a dull start that it never recovers from, but novice director John O’Callaghan makes the same mistake so many first-time directors make when shooting a very low budget digital movie – overdoing the camera tricks ad nauseum. Too many micro budget filmmakers seem to think they have to go all Oliver Stone with their filmmaking in order to make something out of nothing. Why not just rely on making a good movie that tells a good story and stop trying to get so artsy fartsy, especially when you’re attempts at being stylish just look ugly and amateurish?

Flashback sequences – a storytelling technique overused to the point of rendering the entire movie a confusing mess – are filmed in either a hallucinatory dream-like fashion or with grainy footage that looks like the signal from a UHF station a hundred miles away. When that isn’t enough, the director also plays with the color filter for the hell of it. The camerawork is complete overkill and gives off the scent of a misguided filmmaker trying to come up with means by which to overcompensate for the obviously low budget. Later on, film stock will change at random – digital one moment and then looking like the Grindhouse trailer for Machete the next. No clue why.

Jack, Alex, and Bobby, three friends I assume must have built their friendship on their being dullards in more ways than one, head off to the Mojave canyons south of Palm Springs for a not-so-exciting low speed dirt biking excursion unaware that Mexicans use this remote area of desert to illegally cross the border into the United States.

After stumbling upon the body of a murdered Mexican, a small band of border crossers will try to warn them of what’s really going on out there, but since none of our three leads speak Spanish they’ll just have to wait until a pair of racist rednecks open fire on them to find out there are psycho rednecks hunting illegal immigrants trying to cross the border for sport. As well as Caucasians who happen to witness their most dangerous gaming.

The killers soon take them captive, lock’em up in a shed out in the middle of nowhere, play some mind games on them, smack ’em around a little, and then finally – to be honest, there really isn’t much of a finally to this film. So much of this movie’s dialogue and events fall into the realm of pointlessness.

Their lives may depend on being rescued by a Tiki Barber look-a-like cop who had a run-in (and a series of flashbacks) with the racist ringleader. About 85% percent of his scenes will consist of him driving around or staring aimlessly.

The premise behind the film is a good one, quite timely too what with illegal immigration being such a hot button issue and the civilian border patrol called The Minutemen being the source of so much controversy. Unfortunately, whatever loftier ambitions the makers of Purgatory had going in are sunk almost immediately due to the lack of any suspense, a script that is quite simply awful on every conceivable level, actors that aren’t strong enough to overcome the poor material, and I’ve already told you where the direction went so bloody wrong.

And the flashbacks… Ugh! After a while I started feeling like I was trapped in a purgatory of grainy digital imagery.

Outside of the initial promise the premise held, about the only thing worthwhile in Purgatory is the main racist killer – a scrawnier, seedier Sam Elliot meets Burt Reynolds type played by a guy simply billed as Smokey – exudes some uncomfortably realistic, hate-filled menace. At least he did at first before he began speaking with an unnatural amount of hesitation in his voice and turned into a lame cliché much like his sidekick.

The rest of the actors come across as either corny stereotypes or dullards that mainly express their emotions by way of how loud they say their lines. That might have been appropriate given that the dialogue is written so that emotion is reduced to whatever obscenity the character is required to exclaim at that particular moment.

I doubt even Lou Dobbs would find much of anything to like about Purgatory.


1/2 out of 5

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Johnny Butane

  • bludgeoner

    Hmmm… would you say the dodgey flashback filters n all that shit is a really sad cheap attempt at some of the effects used in Natural Born Killers or something?? Sounds terrible…