There’s been quite a lot of found footage/shaky cam kinda flicks recently some good and some bad. I’ve personally enjoyed the recent crop of films such as [REC], Cloverfield and Diary Of The Dead. The subgenre was becoming a bit over saturated and tired for my liking but then along came Paranormal Activity which really impressed me and although a lot of people feel differently it also creeped the shit out me. Paranormal Activity showed me that there is still life within the subgenre so I went into Penance with an open mind.
Director Jake Kennedy blends the found footage flick with the more recent trend in horror torture porn. Torture porn is a term I hate using but it’s the best way to describe the type of films I’m meaning. I’ve become pretty jaded with the carbon copy flicks of this type. Most of them are just the same flick repeated over and over again to me and never live up to the “disturbing” tag laid on them. But as I mentioned with the found footage subgenre a few flicks come out and exceed the standard cliches. Although it didn’t do much for me when I first watched it I’ve grown to really dig Martyrs and it was great to see a flick Grotesque push the boundaries. Combining these two genres is a good move by Kennedy because it does make the film more memorable than its counterparts.
Penance concerns itself with Amelia (Marieh Delfino) a single mother who turns to stripping in order to get some cash to help pay her sick daughter’s medical bills. She and her friend are filming footage for an audition reel for a reality TV show. Stripping doesn’t turn out to be her thing but she’s convinced to do one last job by the lure of a large amount of cash. Candyman (Tony Todd) himself turns up to take her to a secret location which probably should’ve set alarm bells off right there! The job of course is a scheme set up to deliver Amelia into the clutches of a loony tune doctor played by Graham McTaish. The doctor is hell bent on making “Strippers and fagots” realise the error of their sinful ways. He puts his captives through a variety of tests in order to pay penance for their sins. Just your average mental christian with his jars full of amputated “fun bits that drive people to sin”. Gotta admire the dude’s conviction though he doesn’t limit the genital mutilation to his captives. The doctor does some home castration on himself in a scene that is the highlight of the film (yeh I’m a gore freak). Apparently the film is inspired by true events, how closely it sticks to what actually happend is anyone’s guess. Michael Rooker really steals the show as the doctor’s hitman and he looks like he had a lot of fun judging from the behind the scenes footage. The scene in which he is dispatched was great too.
I didn’t really get why exactly the doctor would let Amelia hold onto her video camera the whole time. It didn’t seem feasible to me and the use of music in the chase scene just took away from the whole aesthetic the film was going for. The scene with the FBI after the credits had rolled for a bit was unnecessary and I thought it really broke the already flawed found footage aesthetic. I guess it was meant to be surveillance cam footage or something. The film would’ve been more effective if it was ditched. The extended version of this scene in the extras is even worse and I didn’t buy it at all. I can definitely see why it was dropped along with the other alternative endings in the extras.
I don’t see this really wowing horror fans but a couple of scenes pull it out of being totally forgettable. A decent enough low budget effort that’s well worth a watch to see a fresh take two overdone subgenres.
- Behind the Scenes / Making of
- Interview with director
- Anatomy of a Scene
- Interviews with the cast
- 3 Alternate endings
- How to Strip featurette
- Deleted Scenes
- Director commentary
- director/producer commentary
DIRECTOR(S): Jake Kennedy | COUNTRY: USA | YEAR 2009 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): MVD | RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes