Monday, December 7, 2015

Film Review: Penny Dreadful (2006)

Penny Dreadful (Review)
United States/2006
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"Despite all of its flaws, I think the sheer boredom was its grandest offense."

On a trek to overcome her fear of cars, Penny (Rachel Miner) joins her therapist on a cross-country trip. Their trip goes haywire when they cross paths with an ominous hitchhiker...

Penny Dreadful is a very simple film. Penny and her therapist, Orianna (Mimi Rogers), travel to a mountainous region so Penny can trump her fears. The pair hit a peculiar hitchhiker, so they offer him a lift. To their utter dismay, the hitchhiker turns out to be a creep. They soon find themselves stranded with a flat tire, then stalked and attacked by the hitchhiker. Eventually, Penny finds herself purposely trapped in the car by her pursuer. That's all. A few other characters show up, but nothing really happens. With very little going on, this plot is stretched thin. The ending of the film was predictable and underwhelming, too.

What happens when you try to stretch a short story into a 90-minute feature? Well, you get Penny Dreadful — a bloated film brimming with filler. You get a film filled with scenes that drag on and scenes that are unnecessary. In turn, you get a boring film. Don't get me wrong, there are some decent scenes here. There are moments of genuine suspense and I liked the "urban legend" vibe-twist. There are also some interesting, albeit underutilized psychological elements. On the other hand, the film suffers from other issues aside from the bloating and bad pacing. The film is filled with dumb and clumsy characters — I mean, I think they trip on rocks at least a handful of times. The dialogue was also bad. Everything sounded so unnatural and strange. Every time someone spoke, I thought: people don't talk like that. Some of the reactions were also horrid. You have character who hyperventilates for nearly everything, but offers little reaction when her toe is sawed off — are you kidding?

Rachel Miner is overdone most of the time, overacting a bulk of her scenes. I thought she was decent during a few scenes, but she usually broke the experience for me. Mimi Rogers doesn't fare much better. The acting suffers from the poor dialogue, too. The film looks decent. It's a film at night where you can actually see, so that's good, right? (I'm looking at you, The Woman In Black 2.) The music was also decent. Director Richard Brandes can conjure some moderate suspense, but he's working with a flimsy script. He also fails to pull realistic performances from his cast. Really, although the direction feels uninspired and a little lazy, I think the film suffered more from the bland writing. This just doesn't feel like a feature-length film.

Overall, Penny Dreadful is a mediocre film. It has a simple and interesting concept, as well as some moderate suspense, but suffers from its thin plot. The story quickly becomes dull, the ending is underwhelming, and the characters are hollow and foolish. Despite all of its flaws, I think the sheer boredom was its grandest offense. I can only recommend a stream if it's part of one of your subscriptions and you have nothing better to watch.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, sex and nudity.

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