Sunday, November 19, 2006

Penny Dreadful (2006)

Note: This review is part of my coverage of After Dark Horrorfest: 8 Films To Die For.

Penny Dreadful

A teenage girl, who has been deathly afraid of riding in cars ever since a childhood accident that killed her parents, is encouraged by her therapist to face her fears and take a road trip of sorts. It's just her luck when they nearly run over a lone hitchhiker in the middle of the woods. To compensate for nearly killing him, the therapist agrees to give him a ride to the camp he claims he was headed for. Unfortunately for the duo, the hitchhiker is an escaped mental patient (aren't they all?) fresh off a killing spree at a local diner, and he won't be satisfied until he kills a few more. Even more unfortunate for Penny, the hitchhiker caught enough of the conversation in the car that he knows about Penny's fear, and uses it to torture her psychologically all night long. Penny must face her fears if she has any chance of escaping this nightmare alive.

This was an intense movie. Certainly the kind that would cause some people to be on the edge of their seats for the duration. The great thing is that the fear is so psychological, as opposed to the physical fear that's become so common. The plot might sound a little dry (picking up a murderous hitchhiker, having to overcome fears to survive), but this movie really delivers its order. You can feel Penny's various stages of panic. Plus, the hitchhiker was great. He was really creepy, with his coat, and the hood that covered his face, the way he rarely spoke, and the skewer of bloody meat that he ate from...really a creepy character, but with a certain kind of personality - not just your generic hitchhiking murderer. Plus, you really felt that he was a sadistic bastard, the way he tortured Penny psychologically instead of just killing her off right away. This was a great movie, even though the ending was a little open-ended. Definitely an exciting movie-going experience.

Reasons for banning: I can't really say for sure that anything specific in this movie would have necessarily got it banned from a regular theatrical run. It was pretty heavy on the psychological horror the whole way through, so it feels like a dense scare, and that may have something to do with it. The only possible detail that I feel may have garnered a response from censors would be the potential attempted suicide. "Don't try this at home, kids!"

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