JULY 26, 2007
Earlier this year, I watched the boring as hell movie Wind Chill, which was about two kids more or less trapped in a car during a snowstorm. A half hour or so into Penny Dreadful, I began having mostly unpleasant flashbacks to that film, as Penny is about just ONE person stuck in a car during a snowstorm. But unlike Chill, this one actually has some stuff fucking HAPPEN from time to time, before similarly just sort of ending with a cinematic shrug.
Penny was of course one of the "Eight Films To Die For", which, in reality, range from “Not Even Worth A Hangnail For” (Dark Ride) to “Worth Maybe Killing Another Guy For” (Gravedancers). Incidentally, while those two represent the extreme ends of the spectrum, they are the only two that really benefit from a theatrical screening. All of the others are small, often claustrophobic films; the type that play much better at home. Penny is no exception. There are a lot of great little moments throughout the film, and director Richard Brandes does a pretty good job of making the bulk of the film visually interesting, considering what little he has to work with, most of the time. Unfortunately, like many of the others in the series, it would work best as a short film, since the padding and repetition grows tiresome.
For example, for no reason other than to avoid Wind Chill style nothingness, three characters are introduced. We know they are knife fodder, and that’s fine, but they are involved in a pointless subplot about an extra marital affair (even stupider – the guy and girl have their tryst in an old car in the middle of the freezing woods? Y'all never heard of a Denny’s bathroom?). There’s also an overly lengthy and stupid scene of Penny trying to push her car (wedged between two tress) by sticking her leg out the window and pushing the car away from the tree. Even stupider, this actually sort of works.
The ending is a real letdown…. is something I might say if the film actually had an ending. Penny gets out of the car, is chased by the killer, and a kindly motorist picks her up after running the killer over. The killer’s hand twitches as the motorist looks for signs of life. Penny sees this, and then – 2nd unit director names are revealed. Was the killer Penny herself, manifesting a killer, High Tension style? Was it the escaped mental patient who’s name might literally be Red Herring (the radio announcement is shut off literally as the name is about to be revealed, pointlessly)? Maybe just Mimi Rogers’ ghost, making Penny MORE afraid of cars (since she’s a fairly horrible shrink to begin with – the girl is afraid of cars and she tries to help her by driving her around in a beat up old junker with no shocks or rear defroster?)?
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point that I didn’t really care; I was more or less entertained for 90 minutes and that’s all I ask for out of any After Dark film. And rarely get even that.
On a final note, even though this is actually one of the better AD films, the DVD is entirely lacking in features. While all of the others (to the best of my memory, which is worthless) have had commentary tracks and other extras, all this one has is a 7 min featurette with more than half the running time spent on clips. It’s only truly worth watching for when the titles label the director as “Acclaimed Director Richard Brandes”, despite only having two other movies to his name. Not only that, the two films are ones that even I have never heard of before in all of my Netflix browsing, and both have 3.5 scores on the IMDb to boot. Acclaimed by who, exactly?
Michael Berryman deserves better you bastards!
What say you?