Sunday, November 4, 2007

Penny Dreadful - Indie Take on Old Tale

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Penny Dreadful was one of the 8 Films to Die For 2006. It takes a fairly familiar story: The Hitchhiker. Two women pick up a hitchhiker. Car breaks down. Hitchhiker terrorizes women. Oh, and according to locals there has been a recent onslaught of gruesome murders. Oh, and apparently a woman has escaped from a local mental institution.


My pulp senses are metaphorically tingling with veritable delight.


"Penny Dreadful" by definition is a term for a specific type of British pulp novels sold to readers for, well, a penny. Strategically using this phrase as the title for this horror film definitely sets an initial tone of expected pulp (using the theme and set up of the hitchhiker; a theme that is not novel) as well as a certain sense of homage. The beginning of the movie, in fact, has a cameo of Michael Berryman of the original Hills Have Eyes fame, giving a well-done nod to seige-based isolated victim horror movies that have come before (not to mention a theme-based foreshadowing of what is yet to come). So it's clear, even at the beginning of the film, that director Richard Brandes was meticulous and attentive when putting this indie film together.

So we have a nice set-up for a cliched horror movie, but yet Brandes selects a script that does a new take on the hitchhiker urban legend mythos. In this version of the tale, Penny has an mortal fear of cars (being a survivor of a car crash when she was little), so she is already on edge at the start of the movie. Couple that with a killer who imprisons her in the car, and what you have is the typical stalker tale, but with an added sense of claustrophobia. Brandes definitely captures the car as an encasing prison with Penny as its victim.

The scares are good (definitely had me clenching my fists), the mood is certainly creepy (wonderful suspenseful build-up), and while the blood certainly does flow, it does not flow in an obscene sense.

Kudos to you, Brandes; fantastic new take of the classic urban legend.

I give it * * * *. REALLY liked it.

1 comment:

NeverEndingWonder said...

I hated this movie. Penny was whiney and annoying. Her therapist was incompetant and annoying. There was NOTHING original in the film. It was formula from the beginning to end. There were no surprizes at all. I don't see how you could have found this scary at all, as anyone who's seen a few horror films could predict every moment. Every character was expendable- literally. IMO this film is a complete waste of time.