Penny Dreadful (2006)
Reviewed on 2007 April 17
What was this? No, really, what was this? It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t funny (intentionally or not; I’m really not that picky), it wasn’t even coherent at times!
Penny Deerborn (Rachel Miner) was traumatized by a horrible car accident when she was a small child, and is trying to overcome her phobia. She enlists her therapist, Orianna Volkes (Mimi Rogers), to help her, and Orianna suggests a car ride. Into the remote woods. At night. Orianna starts off carefully sidestepping those dumb cliches — she packs some snacks and a cell phone into her late-model, seemingly well-running car — and then hits a strange, hooded figure that steps out in front of them. Hoping to avoid being sued and thankful he’s still in one piece, Orianna offers him a ride. Of course the guy comes from an even more remote location so they go further out of their way, and… then the festivities start.
I’ll admit, the ride scene, with the stranger packing his own snacks, was very creepy. For a few minutes we’re biting our nails along with Deerborn and Volkes. Too bad that part, and the acting from both Miner and Rogers, were the only things that worked in this movie. After the promising beginning the script slides into cliche hell at warp speed, and you know who’s going to get it, and when. The frustrating thing is that this could have been brilliant. Richard Brandes directed and co-wrote this, and I think he has a very good eye for creating a scary atmosphere but he didn’t follow through here. I actually felt cheated. Think of the premise. A person who’s normally freaked out by cars, stuck in one in the woods and dealing with a maniac? This thing should have reduced people to tears. Can you imagine the field day Hitchcock would have had with this if he were alive today? How about Gore Verbinski? Give him a fat budget, no rating constraints and a clear path.