Directed by Richard Brandes [Other horror films: Out for Blood (2004)]
One of the many movies that I saw a long time back, and remembered very little of going into a fresh viewing, Penny Dreadful was an okay experience. It’s not a good movie, really, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it does possess some decent elements. I don’t think it’s something I’d want to throw on again in the future, but for a one-time viewing, you could do much worse.
Where Penny Dreadful shines, at least in the first half of the film, is the tension, which is built up well. I do think it falls a bit flat the longer the movie goes on, but it can get pretty suspenseful at points. It’s nothing to shame Hitchcock or anything, but I was surprised by how well the tension was held. There were also some occasionally creepy scenes thrown in, which added to the fun.
Problematically, there’s not really enough meat to the story to justify an hour and a half film. For most of the movie, Rachel Miner’s character was trapped in a vehicle, being tortured by her own personal trauma (she has amaxophobia, or a phobia of cars) and a mysterious and violent hitchhiker. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I applaud the movie for being able to minimize their filming location, but I think it might have worked out a little better had the movie been tighter, maybe just 70 minutes as opposed to 90.
As it was, Rachel Miner did a pretty good job. Though she’s not a name I know (she was in Tooth and Nail, from 2007, but I’ve not seen that film in a long-ass time), Miner definitely had the ability to keep my interest in her character’s well-being alive. I was rooting for her all the way though. Mimi Rogers, in her limited screen-time, was solid. Others, including Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing, and many others), Mickey Jones, Chad Todhunter, and Tammy Filor, seemed to just be thrown in to add a little more time, and none of them were relevant at all to the story.
This isn’t a particularly gory movie – we do see some people get stabbed, be it in the foot (which was, on a side-note, probably the best kill of the movie) or multiple times in the back, along with the aftereffects of someone’s toe being cut off – but none of these are done in overly gory fashions. It’s more the suspense and surprise that could make these scenes stand out, though I doubt anything here would end up being that memorable.
Overall, Penny Dreadful wasn’t a terrible time. I think my limited memory of the film was worse than how it actually goes. At worst, this movie could be said to be pretty forgettable. It is below average, but again, I’m impressed with a few elements here and there. I don’t think I’d want to see it again anytime soon, but if you want an okay movie to pass the time with, you might as well give it a shot.
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