July 30, 2010

Penance (2009)

"A young mother decides to become a stripper to earn some fast cash only to find her worst nightmares are about to begin."

I'm getting quite bored of torture porn now especially after seeing the ultimate example of this subgenre, "A Serbian Film". Really, once you see something like that all these other wannabes are quite tame in comparison. Although trying to put a slightly different spin on things, Jake Kennedy, the writer and director of "Penance", failed to impress me in any way with his film.

For a start, "Penance" uses the "Blair Witch Project" style videotaping framing device which has also been used and abused ad nauseum too. Nearly all the arguments that were used against other "found footage" movies such as "Cloverfield" are valid here especially as there are some scenes so contrived that you know nobody would, could or should be filming them in the first place. When you get a scene where the main character tells the cameraman that she needs him to film something for her, you just know that it was a plot device and the golden rule of "art is best when hidden" has been thrown completely out of the window.

Marieh Delfino plays the aforementioned lead. I can't honestly say that I've ever heard of her but she isn't a bad looking woman and can act a bit. She's absolutely awful at being a stripper though so don't expect her to be appearing in any remakes or sequels to "Showgirls" any time soon. If only someone had told her character early on that stripping wasn't a good career choice for her then we could have all been saved a lot of trouble. The first 25 minutes or so of the film are quite embarrassing to watch and when she got offered $3,000 to do a private strip show I just had to laugh. A hopeless stripper being paid more money than she is worth? Well, you just know that it's all going to end badly.

I'm not going get into too much detail about the rest of the film except to mention that Tony Todd turns up as a taxi driver, Michael Rooker is a killer, and Jason Connery pretty much appears as himself. How do known actors get themselves involved in such rubbish? I know we all need money but honestly they'd make more signing autographs at conventions than lowering themselves to work on projects like this. I feel the most sorry for Tony Todd. He was the "Candyman" for God's sake!

OK, I will spoil some of it for you. Our stripper gets herself kidnapped by a psycho gynaecologist who is also a religious maniac. From that you can guess what happens next. Yes, there will be torture and genital mutilation. That should be the tagline.

Graham McTavish, a Scottish actor who you'll also know from better things, plays Geeves, the nutter who tells his victim that he is going to cut off her "fun bits". What a come down for a former Shakespearean actor! He did quite a good job but it's nothing you haven't seen before. He actually reminded me of Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies for some reason but wasn't at all funny. None of this was particularly funny, it was just bad.

Don't expect to see any effects in this as good the ones in Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist" because you won't. There is a bit of a similar theme about women being evil and having to be punished but that's as far as it goes. The torture scenes are basically a very poor man's version of "Martyrs" but without any tension, atmosphere or realism. I was bored.

The final nail in the coffin for this film comes in the form of some contrived end captions about Geeves still being at large with a little epilogue vignette before the credits. It's so pathetic that you can almost feel sorry for Jake Kennedy for adding it. It was amateur and formulaic beyond belief.

"Penance" is going into my dungeon now. It was a very aptly named torture film because I really do feel that I've more than served mine by watching it.

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