• Penance (Mill Creek Entertainment) DVD Review

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: March 17th, 2020.
    Director: Jake Kennedy
    Cast: Tony Todd, Graham McTavish, Michael Rooker, James Duval, Jason Connery, Marieh Delfino
    Year: 2009
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    Penance – Movie Review:

    Written and directed by Jake Kennedy in 2009, Penance opens with two text cards that read "The following tapes were found at the abandoned Lichenstein Hospital for the Criminally Insane... ...along with 14 dead bodies."

    From here we meet Amelia (Marieh Delfino), a single mother who is seriously strapped for cash. Without any other options, she decides to allow a week in her life to be filmed for a reality TV style video project in exchange for a nice wad of much needed cash. During this very same week, her friend Suzie (Eve Mauro) talks her into taking a job as a stripper. Amelia’s got the looks and after a quick bit of training, she’s got the moves too. Besides that, it’s easy money and it’ll give her the confidence boost that she needs.

    This all sounds fine, right? But soon enough, Amelia is almost raped while watching Suzie perform. Oddly enough, this doesn’t dissuade her and before you know it, she’s working the pole like a champ… once Suzie gets beaten up and needs a replacement. A short time later, a rich guy wants to hire some dancers for a private party he’s throwing out in the sticks. Amelia is on board and before you know it a car has come (Tony Todd plays the driver) to pick up Amelia and the cameraman still following her around. Amelia and her fellow dancers strip like they’re supposed to, and once it’s all over, without any real issues, they’re expecting to get paid and let on their way… and then Mann (Michael Rooker) shows up. All of this ties into a plot by a religious lunatic named Geeves (Graham McTavish) wherein he’ll acquire and then torture strippers (and for some reason, only strippers!), women that he deems sinful and in need of proper punishment. Look all good religious lunatics, he intends to cleanse them, to purify them and to free them from the grasp of mortal sin. Genitals get mutilated and, puzzlingly enough, the camera keeps rolling.

    Penance isn’t a good movie. Yeah fine, Tony Todd was amazing as Candyman and he deserves our respect for that movie and a few other genuine classics. Michael Rooker scared the shit out of us as Henry and was great in The Walking Dead. Graham McTavish was pretty cool in the fourth Rambo movie and Hobbit fans love him for his work in the Lord Of The Rings movies. This has a solid cast of B-movie regulars working on its side but there’s not much more to this than seeing strippers tortured by lunatics. These strippers seem nice enough, and even the ones that don’t certainly don’t deserve what happens to this. This, of course, is the point – Geeves is the bad guy, obviously, and he shouldn’t be torturing strippers, period. But we don’t get enough background information on him to really make him as interesting as he needs to be for this to work.

    The whole thing feels very ‘thin’ in that yeah, the grisly side of the movie is there and is effective but the story and the characters just aren’t all that well put together. It feels, at times, as if it’s trying for something akin to what James Wan and company accomplished with Saw but even the worst of the Saw sequels feels more accomplished and unique than this, as formulaic as they might have been (and they got to be pretty formulaic at times).

    To Kennedy’s credit, the movie is paced will. It moves quickly and it gets very much to the point. The found footage aspect isn’t overdone, but then, it doesn’t add anything to the narrative really (and seriously, when running away from your captors would you really film yourself?), and seems superfluous but was more than likely a budgetary decision. Some of the effects are good and to be fair, some of the torture sequences are done effectively enough to have some impact, but more focus on the characters and story and less on the nastiness would have resulted in a better movie than this.

    Penance – DVD Review:

    Mill Creek Entertainment brings Penance to DVD in a 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that reflects the modest roots of the production. Clearly shot on digital video, there’s obviously no print damage or dirt to talk about, the image is as clean as you could hope for. Colors look okay, except when they’re not supposed to – the found footage aspect of parts of the production requires that things look a little less than perfect in that regard. Some mild compression artifacts pop on the screen now and then but otherwise, this looks just fine and would seem to be a perfectly accurate representation of how the movie is intended to look.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is fine in the context of the story being told. That last bit is important because this sounds like it was recorded using the microphones in the video cameras being used to shoot the movie, and as such, things can and will sound more than a bit muffled in spots. There are no alternate language or subtitle options offered on the disc.

    Extras are limited to a trailer for the feature, static menu and chapter selection.

    Penance – The Final Word:

    Penance isn’t very good. The DVD from Mill Creek looks fine, but the movie itself… you can probably skip this.