Friday, April 27, 2007

Penny Dreadful (2006)

Penny Dreadful is the kind of movie that looks like it has potential from the trailer. I didn’t get to catch it at the After Dark Horrorfest, so I decided to give it a looksie now. I wasn’t expecting too much out of this one, but I was kinda hoping that it would surpass my low expectations.

After having suffered a traumatic car accident as a young child in which her parents died grisly deaths in front of her, Penny (Rachel Miner) has developed an intense phobia of cars. Her therapist (Mimi Rogers) decides that Penny needs to face her fears, and takes her on a car trip up to the mountains. On the way, Penny keeps having panic/anxiety attacks from every pot hole they hit. Her anxiety level goes through the roof when they hit a hitchhiker. After seeing that he is ok, they offer him a ride so he can get out of the bitter cold. He’s a little strange and freaky, so after dropping him at a desolate campsite, the women try to haul ass out of there. One problem – the hitchhiker slashed their tire and they can’t get further than a mile from him. The therapist leaves Penny alone in the car and walks out into the woods to try and get a signal on her cell phone. The hitchhiker has found them, though, and soon Penny is trapped in the one thing she fears, the car, as the sadistic hitchhiker delights in toying with her. Will Penny be able to face her fears and fight against the hitchhiker? Or will the car become her deathtrap?

It’s hard to pull off a movie that just has one primary location (in this case, the interior of a car) and Penny Dreadful doesn’t manage too well with this. Overall, I was bored with this flick, even though I really hoped it would be good.

What I did enjoy was the acting, especially Mimi Rogers as the therapist and Rachel Miner as Penny. Miner played the frantic and panicked Penny perfectly. She really came off like she really was in the grip of fear and had no control over it. Rogers is always a joy to see (remember her fantastic turn in Ginger Snaps?), and even though her presence is short-lived, she gives an air of credibility to the film. As for the hitchhiker (played by Liz Davies), the glimpses we do get are downright creepy.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film isn’t as good as the performances. It just kinda limps along through its 90 minute run-time. This could have been a great entry for a Masters of Horror episode, but as a full-length movie it just doesn’t work. The plot is just too skimpy and underdeveloped to support its run-time. Also, I hated how the whole subplot of the two locals played out. It seemed completely unnecessary, except for an excuse to pad the story. They could have either developed the characters a little more and made them work within the story or just gotten rid of them all together.

As for gore, you’ve got your standard stabbings, slitting of necks, severing of toes, etc. There is nothing too impressive here and certainly nothing to impress the gorehounds. I thought the best part was when they gave the hitcher a lift and he offered them some raw meat on a skewer…ummmm…wouldn’t you kick that person out of your car straightaway? That one had me giggling!

Penny Dreadful might spook your 14-year-old little brother or sister, but horror fans will have little to enjoy with this film. The well-done acting can’t make up for the thin plot and the lack of scares or tension.

Available on Amazon!

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