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Penny Dreadful Party

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Four months after seeing “Penny Dreadful,” I have decided to theme my next Halloween party around this movie. All I need to do is get an old BMW, wedge it inbetween two trees in my back yard, and let my friends take turns crawling inside to be the Penny character, with perhaps the rest of the party guests skulking around outside to terrorize the victim within. Just add beer, maybe some skewers with some raw meat, and that’s a hell of a party.

“Penny Dreadful” was shown in limited release in theaters last November, as part of the After Dark Horror Fest’s “8 Films to Die For.” One of the films, “The Abandoned,” was voted the audience favorite and was re-released in theaters on Feb. 23. The remaining seven will be released on DVD Tuesday.

Last November, I was lured into going to the Rave theater in Destin, Fla., by my roommate and two of my best friends, all of whom were excited to see the movies of Horror Fest. I went in knowing nothing about the movies, not even the titles … just that we were going to try to see as many as we could get into, whether I liked it or not.

So after plunking down more than $20 on 3 movie tickets, I proceeded past the box office into the screen room. The first ticket read “PENNY DREAD” — it was not until the title sequence that I realized this was not the actual title of the film. Just call that the first surprise of the night.

By film’s end, my friends were a little worried about what the next two movies were going to be like. One even redubbed the movie we had just seen as “Plenty Dreadful.”

Being a lover of bad movies myself, I couldn’t really say that “Penny” was that bad. In fact, as time passed, I realized more and more the second surprise — I love this movie.

Reason No. 1 to love it: My friends hate it. But there is more. This movie basically has everything you need for a great, bad horror film. Because it’s horror, you have blood, a little guts, and those nerve-wracking jumpy moments. Because it’s bad, none of it has to make any sense.

The plot here is pretty thin. Penny Dearborn (Rachel Miner) was in an especially nasty car crash as a child and watched her mother die, dripping blood in an inverted and mangled automobile. As a result, Penny has a phobia that prevents her from traveling in a car.

Fast forward several years, and Penny’s therapist (Mimi Rogers) is taking her on a road trip in an attempt to help her overcome her trauma and once again be able to get her motor running and head out on the highway. In a BMW. You can probably see where this is leading.

A cameo by the scary guy from “The Hills Have Eyes” is just a ruse: Penny is heading for something far more dreadful. Throw in some muscle relaxers, a creepy hitchhiker and a skewer with raw meat, and you really have something to dread.

“Dread” is really the key word here, because in the middle part of the film, you undeniably get a sense of it. A digital clock on the dashboard of the BMW drives the concept home, and Penny’s incessant moaning, whining and sobbing bring the emotion into full flower for the viewer. A few side vignettes with yet-to-be-established characters adds to the confusion.

I think what my friends didn’t like about the movie was the slow pacing of the trapped-inside-the-BMW sequence. But it occurred to me that this is what horror is all about — making the viewer un-comfortable.
Sure, there’s gore in store; there’s slashing to be had; there is that strangely cathartic release that comes with the killer going in for the kill. There is even that moment that you know isn’t supposed to be funny, but you laugh anyway. All of that is expected in the horror genre.

What “Penny Dreadful” delivers the most is dread, and you at least get your $7.50 worth of it. Since the DVD costs about twice that, invite some friends over and spread the dread around.

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Posted by on Tuesday, March 20th, 2007. Filed under Lifestyle, Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry