GORE 0- 5 : 1
CREEPINESS 0 - 5 : 0
ENTERTAINMENT 0- 5 : 3
NIGHTMARES 0 -5: 0
Penny Dreadful is part of the Horrorfest Series of films ("8 Films to Die For") that After Dark Films released a few months ago. The premise is simple and familiar. The protagonist, Penny, suffers from a debilitating fear of automobiles and has enlisted the help of her therapist (played by an aging Mimi Rogers) to help her overcome it. The two take off on a trip to the mountains of California to, I suppose, learn that there is nothing to be a afraid of while driving in total isolation and darkness. On the way they nearly run over a mysterious and cloaked hitchhiker, offer to give him a ride to a nearby campsite and are then hunted by him for the remainder of the film. It's a familiar horror movie theme - fear of the unknown, fear of country folk, fear of isolation. The kind of stuff Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper made careers out of. Simple.
The film's strengths lie in the fact that the bulk of the movie takes place inside the car after the bad guy has wedged it between two trees preventing the escape of the people inside. Add to it that one of the car's passengers is a corpse and things get kind of icky. During the middle of the film the tension level rises and the main character does a passable job of freaking out. As long as the focus remains on the people trapped in the car, the paranoia rises.
There is good atmosphere in the movie, the film going from full color, to blue and black to an overpowering red color as the level of fear rises in the main actor. Many of the scenes are long and drawn out creating a sense of anticipation and doom. Of particular creepiness is a scene where Penny needs to pry the car key from the mouth of the dead body locked in with her. Rigor mortis has set in and the scene is a little yucky and sad. For a while I thought this movie was going to go into some interesting places.
In the end, however, the choice is made to rely on stale horror film cliches that can be seen coming miles and miles away. The killer's voice is ridiculously "scary", the maniacal laughing annoying and not frightening at all. The pointless naked scenes lead to even more hackneyed slasher scenes (with very little blood I might add) and the end of the movie is just a train wreck of predictability. Ah well.
- Complaint Dept