Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
A young woman is on a journey with her therapist to cure her fear of cars after surviving a terrible accident as a child. When they literally run into a mysterious hitchhiker, she finds herself with more issues than she could ever imagine.
Is it good movie?
Poor Penny… as a young girl she survives a car accident that kills her parents leaving her alone. Aside from the loss of her folks, she develops a phobia of being in a car. Her therapist thinks that the only way she can truly get over her fear is to take a road trip to where the accident happens. And as we know in this kind of movie, nothing ever works as planned. Along the way the two of them begin to argue about some sleeping pills that Penny has taken. In this midst of this, they almost run over a hitchhiker. And thus, when you pick up a hitchhiker in a horror movie, you know it can’t be good. Penny Dreadful, another film in the After Dark Horrorfest has its share of gore but is really more of a suspense thriller. And frankly, it works. In the beginning, Penny, played by Rachel Miner is a basket case who drove me a little nuts. She has the quirks down of someone with a phobia so strong that she makes you want to just give her a good slap and tell her to snap out of it. Rachel is strong in the role and that means when she is annoying, she is really annoying but that is the character, not the actor. And as her therapist, Mimi Rodgers is very believable as the one trying to cure Penny of her fears.
This is a brave movie. And by brave, I mean the filmmakers somehow are able to keep tension throughout in a film that takes place for the most part inside a car. Yes there are moments that defy credibility including why would a smart woman drive into the middle of nowhere for some freak offering meat on a stick. Or how the hell can you get a car into the position that Penny finds when she wakes up from a deep sleep after being knocked unconscious. Yet, I still found myself glued to this miserable girl who ends up being mentally tortured by this f*cked up hitchhiker. And I’m not talking in a Hostel or Saw sort of way, this is pure psychological cruelty. I don’t want to reveal too much but this psychopath is mean to this poor girl. What the f*ck did she do man, come on? But that is what really brought up the creep out factor in the film. There are some very nice suspenseful moments and credit must go to director Richard Brandes for keeping the confines of a car tense and scary. I’m impressed. I must also mention a very strong performance from Liz Davies. Good performances and good direction make for a creepy little thriller, although I could have dealt with a little less whining from Penny.
Video / Audio
Video: This is a clear and clean 1.78:1 Widescreen transfer. It was nice to see Lion’s Gate give these films a worthwhile treatment.
Audio: Also good is the 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital. The creaking sounds in the dark woods sound… well… creepy.
As for extras, Penny came up a little short. Where is the commentary with Mimi, huh? I would have loved to get a better insight into this film. But all we get is ”Behind the Screams” Featurette (7:19) which is basically an extended trailer with interviews.
There is a Teaser Trailer (1:17) is a little more than a teaser. It’s effective enough to get me to want to see the film.
You wanna rock? Well, you can (sort of) with the music video to ”Stay Away” by Sanity (3:34). It’s an Alt-Rock song that is serviceable. Not great but not bad.
And finally we get Trailers for “Dark Ride”, “The Hamiltons”, “Reincarnation”, “The Gravedancers”, “Unrest” and “Wicked Little Things”.
Penny Dreadful had the makings to be a very dull take on the old hitchhiker urban legend. But thanks to a skilled director and some very credible performances, this is a better than average offering with a demented stranger terrorizing an already traumatized girl in psychological purgatory. It’s also nice to see Mimi Rogers in this kind of genre. She is an underrated actress and it would be nice to see her experiment even more within the genre. You know the old saying, “Never pick up a hitchhiker.” but in the case of Penny Dreadful… you’ll be glad you did. Yet you may seriously wanna smack the living shit out of Penny every so often just to get her to quit whining.