Penny Dreadful

STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
• "Behind the Screams" featurette
• Sanity "Stay Away" music video
• Trailers

The Pitch

Pit and the Pendulum
meets The Hitcher!"

The Humans

Miner, Mimi Rogers, Chad Todhunter (watch out, Tod!)

The Nutshell

Penny (Miner) lost both her parents in a car accident when she was a child.
Since then, she has had a paralyzing fear of being in cars. To break her of
that fear, her psychiatrist (Rogers) takes her on a road trip. High up in the
mountains, and late at night, they come upon a hitchhiker. Despite Penny’s
frantic objections, the psychiatrist stops to give the guy a lift. After the
ensuing violence, Penny finds herself trapped in the car with the
psychiatrist’s dead body, and the hitchhiker tormenting her like a cat with a

The Lowdown

review will be presented in two forms: haiku, and prose. First, the former:

seventy minutes
of hyperventilation
and nothing much else

there’s more to talk about, but the above is the impression that will survive
the longest. Penny Dreadful holds the distinction of being the most boring
horror movie I’ve ever seen. The scenario is a simple one: bad guy stalks
innocent girl. Other writers and directors have taken a premise no more
complicated than that and spun it into a tense, or at least enjoyable, ninety
minutes of thrills. Penny Dreadful‘s problem is that instead of escalating the
confrontation between the victim and the torturer, a stagnancy settles into the
script at around the fifteen minute mark and makes itself comfortable.

To lighten up this review, have a picture of the nicest man near Hollywood.

limited setting ought to provide a pressure-cooker for Penny’s emotions; I’m
sure that was the intention. Rachel Miner shoulders the task of keeping the
audience’s attention through the interminable second and third acts with
aplomb, but there’s not enough content there for her to work with. There’s only
so many times we can see her character panicking, trapped in the car, before the
sympathy wears off.

fear of cars exists in the hope that it will sustain some of that sympathy,
but, in fact, Penny’s phobia is so loosely defined and so unimportant to the
progress of the plot that it could be removed without damaging any of the
structure. While we’re on the topic, the entire first act could be excised without
harming the film’s minor effect. That’s never a good sign.

Dangerously close to the Gonzo method for catching a cab.

The only
source of diversion I got from Penny Dreadful was from listing the
minor infractions against common filmmaking decency, such as including a few
characters who exist solely to be cut up by the hitcher, pulling a Saw-like
game with a dead body and a key, and resolving the whole thing with the ol’
"escaped inmate at an asylum" explanation. That’s not even mentioning
that there’s not even crazy-man logic to the hitcher’s torment of Penny. It’s
simultaneously too much, and far too little.

God, it’s
hard to conclude this review of Penny Dreadful without resorting to
the obvious pun.

The Package

It’s kind
of telling that the back of the box has a synopsis that’s only one sentence
long, and only about twenty words.

the disc has a behind-the-scenes featurette, trailers, and a music video for
the Sanity song "Stay Away." You know, it’s kind of dangerous putting
up all these warning signs for potential viewers. If they turn out to be
warranted, then the thing has a sort of terrible prescience. If the film
doesn’t live up to the warning signs, then you get some terrible poop.

3 out of 10