Penny Dreadful (2005)
User ReviewsReview this title
I heard this had a "twist" ending and tried to figure it out...but my guesses we always wrong. I assumed the husband was in on the whole thing, hoping to drive Jessica insane, but the real revelation about whats happening in that house is much more clever, and i'm surprised I've never seen it done in another motion picture. Good DVD package for 10 bucks. The outtakes are hilarious and the "Making of" featurette was interesting enough to make me want to watch the movie again right after. The film certainly doesn't look like the disaster the director talks about while making it. Highly recommended if you like your movies scary, short and sweet.
It is rare to see a worthy story told so ably. And even more rare to see a horror film that delivers so thoroughly on its promise of scaring us moviegoers.
At the screening, there was a palpable sense of glee as "Penny" picked up steam ... This is a REAL horror movie. The full roller coaster ride that made this viewer, for one, remember why he loves the genre. (Unfortunatley there are so many movies out there that conspire to make us forget...)
So, in short: bravo! Long live the intelligent, witty, compelling horror film! I can't wait to see Mr. Norton's first feature.
"Penny", sporting a welcome cameo by Friday the 13th 1 and 2 alumni Betsy Palmer as an amiable psychic and Warrington Gillette as an uptight husband, is big-budget and lush and is effective enough to not rely on overt visual effects. The SFX are great, and the best part are that they don't look like FX at all. The revelation of the nature of the hauntings is a simple, excellent idea I haven't seen before. Little plot details and lines of dialog pay off and are referenced later in the film, so for once, we have a movie that doesn't cheat! All the clues are present for the viewer to figure out the final reveal. But, Norton is so skilled at letting the audience fall for his screenplay's subtle misleads, it of course makes you feel like a fool for not figuring it all out. All this capped by a nice downbeat ending (poor Jessica) and you've got something worthy of a top tier Twilight Zone episode. The only spoiler is a visual "added explanation" over the end credits that's not needed if you've been paying attention.
Good, classy work though.
Not long after they've moved in, however, Jessica starts hearing and seeing strange things in the night, most disturbingly, a spectral man with a shotgun roaming the hallway. She also hears things coming from downstairs and sees a small blonde boy appear in the front window. Jessica, understandably enough, begins to think that the house is haunted.
Rather than flee the home, she decides to try and figure out what they ghosts want. In order to get to the root of this she enlists the aid of an elderly woman skilled in communicating with ghosts (Betsy Palmer), but the woman swears up and down that there are no ghosts in the house at all. Jessica starts to wonder if she's losing it, until one night on Halloween, it all hits the fan...
Penny Dreadful has an ending that really pays off and makes you want to watch it all over again. Be sure to stick around through the end credits for a little extra clarification on the twist. Adding to the film is the slick cinematography and careful lighting. Norton's film is a good looking one, and a carefully shot one. The subtle camera work lets the shadows creep in and rather than bombard us with visuals of the supernatural early on, the story lets us move along with Jessica as she investigates - we never know more than she does. Performance wise things shape up fairly well with the two leads doing a fine job and with good work all around from the supporting cast.
The first extra is a commentary track courtesy of Bryan Norton and a moderator. Norton talks about the historical importance of the location shooting (Fulci fans may be impressed!) before going on to talk about problems that he ran in with his original DP. Norton covers casting and cinematography and explains how and why certain scenes were handled. Norton, a film teacher, talks about utilizing as many horror movie fans and friends into his crew as possible, as he feels it helps to use people who do not have contempt for the genre. It's an informative and well paced track that provides a detailed look at the creation of this short film. Up next is a featurette entitled Building The Bad House (11:10) begins by explaining what a penny dreadful is before taking us behind the scenes of the production while it was shooting. We see some storyboards and get some thoughts from the cast and crew members on how they feel about the project. Betsy Palmer shows up and dances an odd dance for the camera before sitting down for an interview. We see some of the green screen shots being set up and we see some of the effects work being created.
New York City and Greenwhich Village have never been so lovely on screen as they do for the setting of this story about a haunted townhouse and the young couple who move in. The wife begins to see grisly visions of a murder that seems to have been committed there. But is the house really haunted? The story takes place in October, and you can practically taste the autumn on the screen (I took the Village haunted house tour one Halloween weekend- great fun).
Great setting, great mood. "Penny Dreadful" is a very good film indeed, but is a lot of fun for film buffs, too. There are subtle homages I noticed to other horror films ("Topper", anyone?) - some references more successful than others. Is this really the same setting as "Wait Until Dark"?
"Friday the 13th" star Betsy Palmer has a somewhat humorous role as a Trudie, a looney psychic who tries to help figure out the mystery. The supporting cast is made up of genre actors (Palmer, Gillette, Dupre, and Tina Krause) who nicely play off the attractive leads Emily Vaughan and Sebastian Lacause.
The scene with Vaughan having to crawl across broken glass will have you turning away, and there's a great bit with an shotgun totting intruder trying to break into her bedroom in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm. There is a great ending ( I wasn't expecting the twist at all) .
Perfect Halloween viewing . Sit back with your candy apple and enjoy.
***1/2 out of ****
***1/2 out of **** stars
'Penny Dreadful' is old fashioned haunted house movie that will most probably please connoisseurs of the genre. While it hardly breaks new ground, the film is at times funny, scary and violent. There are subtle references to other films, such as "Don't Look Now" and "The Haunting of Julia". Betsy Palmer (Mrs. Voorhees from the original Friday the 13th) comes to investigate a seemingly haunted New York City townhouse inherited by a handsome couple Jessica and David Clausen(Emily Vaughn and Sebastian Lacause). Is the house possessed or is poor Jessica losing her mind from repressed guilt of a secret abortion from years before? Just when you think you've figured it out, you haven't. The acting, score and cinematography are first rate.
Also, since it's a short, it doesn't suffer from the usual slow plodding found in most ghost stories.
One aspect that makes PD unique, is the reaction of the main character when she realizes that her and her husband are living in a "haunted house". Instead of the usual freaking out and every one assuming she's crazy, she's excited by the aspect of living with ghosts and embraces it. Very different.
An overall well crafted film.
Director Bryan Norton does a commendable subverting the clichéd and old hat premise, always letting the audience think they're ahead of the game. Norton mounts one or two quite creditable, if minor, shock scenes, and it must be said though that ending is a genuine shock.
The director of this film has a bright future ahead of him and I cant wait to see what else he comes up with. \ Betsy Palmer is wonderful as Trudie the psychic and even though his part isn't a big one it was great to see another Friday veteran Warrington Gillette again after an all too long absence from films.
This film deserves all the attention it can get. Don't miss this one and pay close attention to ALL the details.
Sure, it's another film about a stupid white couple that move into a haunted house, but so what? It works. Mysterious phone calls? Check. Spooky children? Check.
Power outage in the middle of a dark and stormy night? Check. It's all here. But so is Betsy Palmer doing her best Madame Arcati impression as a Greenwhich Village fortune teller.
Kudos for keeping it fast moving and for adding a sense of fun to the proceedings. Incidentally, however, I do remember an old Twilight Zone that had a similar ending, but this film is well done and scary so I don't mind.
PENNY DREADFUL the film looks hardly cheap with its classy production values and decidedly non trashy approach to horror. While using the term PENNY DREADFUL as the title for this above average haunted house chiller seems a bit of a stretch, it still remains a fairly effective short movie.
1950's glamour gal Betsy Palmer puts in a nice cameo as a fortune teller sent to the house to help the young couple who've inherited it. Good to see her still out there.
"Penny Dreadful" was hands down the best film in the "Screamfest L.A." lineup that I caught in October. The film, about an attractive couple inheriting a haunted house, is well written and directed, and the twist ending, for once, actually seems to make total sense.
The cast is great, especially the one and only Betsy Palmer in a fun role where she's (wisely) allowed to steal the scenes right from under her younger co-stars feet. The atumnal New York City locations are a real plus. The ending is surprisingly gory and very violent, considering how subdued the rest of the film is.
If you can't catch this at a festival, try tracking down a DVD. I understand that Fangoria TV has picked up the film for Broadcast and it is getting put on 2 or 3 different DVD compilations. Would make a great remake for a feature.
This movie is a real hoot. first off, there seems to be a few folks out there with sour grapes about this film- probably the people who keep losing to it on the festival circuit. There is no way you can say this film isn't well done.
i've seen it twice and I'm still gonna buy the DVD. It's scary in all the right places and has a wicked sense of humor that is refreshingly not all "wink wink" (depsite the appearances of horror folks like Betsy Palmer) like we get nowadays.
The finale hits hard because the film suddenly gets very bloody and has a sick shotgun to the face scene that made the audience scream out loud followed by a whopper twist. Definitely an excellent little film to watch out for.
#1 is a very good movie.
#2 It actually is scary.
#3 Has a neat twist ending that makes you want to see the movie again.
I wont re-hash the plot like others have done on this site. The ending.....OK...some people have said that they don't get the ending of this movie! Are you insane???? Are you blind? It's perfectly clear....even without the final newspaper montage that hits you over the head with it. Finally heres a movie that doesn't pander....and some people still don't pay enough attention. The kid in the red sweater in the window? The second time you see him? Hello!
After her Aunt dies, Jessica (Emily Vaughan) and David (Sebastian Lacause) inherit a huge house in the upscale section of NYC. Right away, strange things start happening. Jessica is sure the house is home to some odd apparition. She brings in Psychic Trudie Tredwell (Betsy Palmer) to check things out, while David is constantly away, working. According to Trudie, the house is completely ghost-free. Regardless of the house being haunted or not, the weird happenings continue. Incredibly creepy phone calls of a woman screaming for help and Jessica waking up in a refreshingly large pool of blood, really take a toll on Jessica. It pushes her over the edge, and there may be no turning back...
The first thing I want to say about this movie, is that it puts the characters first. That's not only rare for a horror film, but for ANY modern film in general. Being a horror film, it would usually showcase the gore and violence above everything else. But there is little of both in this film. Don't get me wrong, this movie does have some nice gore shots, really good in fact. Nothing extreme to push it to splatter film status, but definitely enough to satisfy the gorehounds and gross out the chicks. There are also some extreme moments of tension here. I've watched every kind of extreme film genre there is, and even I felt a sense of dread at times. The cinematography and music were top-notch as well. I'll leave it at that, or this review will end up being 60 pages long.
Of course, the characters wouldn't have become who they are without the wisely chosen cast. The biggest attention grabber here is obviously Betsy Palmer, which any horror buff will know, played Pamela Voorhees in the ultimate slasher epic, "Friday the 13th." Although her role is brief, she does what she came to do and really adds something to the movie. Another known name in the horror community, Warrington Gillette, also stars. Gillette played the unmasked Jason in Friday the 13th Part 2. He did an outstanding job as the a-hole husband of the couple who buy the house from Jessica and David. I'm not sure who played the real estate agent, but he was a real scumbag and I loved it. Bryan has thrown in some truly REAL characters. Leading lady Emily Vaughan really made this movie something special. I hope she sticks with the craft, because I see big things for her. Oh yeah, and she's really hot too. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person. I'd also like to note Sebastian Lacause, who played the husband, starred in "Boogie Nights" as a character called "Hot Traxx Dancer." That's hands-down the greatest name ever. It has nothing to do with this movie, but it's so ridiculous that I had to say something about it.
Hollywood has lost its magic, it's up to little guys like Bryan Norton to keep that flame burning. Penny Dreadful is a ball-gripping experience that leaves a taste of blood in your mouth. This is an amazing short horror film from Bryan Norton, and I'll be waiting for his debut feature.