Sunday, September 21, 2014

Film Review: Penumbra (2011)

Penumbra (Review)
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...the bulk of the film is boring."

Arrogant businesswoman Marga (Cristina Brondo) finds herself renting an apartment to an eccentric man with hidden intentions...

Penumbra follows Marga as she attempts to seal the deal and rent out the apartment. It begins with Marga negotiating with one man, then with his "driver" or supervisor, then a pair of lawyers... Anyway, they're all waiting for the client, who eagerly wants to rent the apartment and wants to pay multiple times the price and in advance. And that's basically all they do, though: wait. Eventually (more like during the last 20 minutes, excluding credits), the story picks up for a great climax and good ending.

I really appreciate buildup, especially when it's tense and suspenseful. Penumbra has buildup, but it has too much buildup for its own good. Sure, there is some suspense and a solid creep factor during the first two acts, but most of it is really Marga conducting business and, you guessed it, waiting. If the uneventful story doesn't put you off, the dreadfully slow pace might. Again, I love slow-burners, but this one is too slow for its own good. Don't mind an uneventful story and an unnecessarily slow pace? Well, on top of those two glaring issues, you also have to put up with Marga's annoying arrogance -- she's not a very likeable character.

Fortunately, as I previously mentioned, there is some decent suspense here and there. Not nearly enough to fully redeem the first two tedious acts, but enough to make them tolerable and engaging. The film becomes more engaging, more suspenseful, and generally more entertaining during the final act. It's eventful, twisted, and violent. It's like at this point, directors Adrián and Ramiro García Bogliano realized they needed to spruce up the film and thought, "I know, let's move the story forward, lets amp up the suspense, let's toss in gallons of blood, and make sure to lather Cristina Brondo's boobs in baby oil... Yes, yes... Excellent."

The acting isn't demanding nor does it really demand. Leading lady Cristina Brondo is passable, but also a little bland and unnatural. This is partly due to the actual performance, but also due to some of the shoddy dialogue writing. (She's foine, though. That's fine with an o, which makes it more fine.) I like the cinematography and music, it makes the film feel more atmospheric, kind of like a throwback horror film. Directors Adrián and Ramiro García Bogliano have a great grasp on the style of Penumbra, but are inefficient in storytelling and actual writing. (Adrián García Bogliano went on to helm Here Comes The Devil, which is a much better horror film.)

Overall, Penumbra is a mediocre film. It has some solid suspense here and there, and a great climax and ending, but the bulk of the film is boring. That's the best way to describe it: boring. It could've been so much more, but instead we get a short film that's stretched into feature length. Cristina Brondo is a looker, though, if that helps...

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, some nudity.

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