Reviewed By Ross Hughes
“Its Martyrs meets Cloverfield!”……
Sometimes I sit there and wonder why my wife ever decided to live with me. Its a Saturday Night, the chinese has come, the kids upstairs watching High School Musical in one bedroom and playing Red Dead Redemption on the XBox in the other. Its summer but there is a hint of winter in the air. Its cold, the rain lashing down on the window, the fire is on and it all feels cosy! Love is in the air, my wife looks at me with that spark in her eye, the wine is poured, the Chicken Special Fried Rice looks and smells nice and I am beginning to feel lucky. This is my reward for working hard all week, a bit of loving, a nice night of passion, all I have to do now is pick the film. Its there in front of me…….a nice romantic comedy starring Amy Adams entitled Leap Year, or this, a new horror to come into my collection, called Penance. I can see my wife looking at the cover of that Rom Com, the clue is there for me, I know what she wants, her needs to make this night perfect, so what do I do…….chuck on the horror! And in the space of twenty minutes I am sitting alone, the wife in bed, taken that other film with her, the love that circled all around me long but gone, and all of a sudden, the rice on my plate did not look that nice anymore.
What went wrong!
Well lets just say, f you want to see an opening half of a film in which it tells you how to be a stripper, then this is the film for you. All told in a camcorder style which of course is now an horror must for makers but becoming quite tiresome for the viewers, the film is all set around Amelia (Marieh Delfrino) who struggling to make ends meet as a single mum and a sick child to look after, decides to make an audition tape for any reality show in which she can make money. In the meantime her best friend Suzy (Eve Mauro) suggests she joins her in the stripping circuit where money is easy to be made and while at first hesitant, agrees if only Suzy shows her the moves. Hands on hip, arse pointed, breasts out, the first half hour is like an audition tape for Worlds Got Strippers, as its quite a bizarre opening that I would say I was sucked in by the tension, but I was too busy looking at the flesh on show to notice if there was any, and also by the fact it was at this particular time that my wife grabbed her takeaway and took herself upstairs, despite my begging that “It has not started yet!” “Yes it have!” she said, “the trouble is, all the action is happening in your pants!”…
Whatever did she mean?
Anyway, after the practise, comes the first gig and all things go well, the boys who hired them are happy, they have made some money and Amelia decides that is it for her, but like films of this nature, there is always one last job, and that comes when Suzy gets beaten up by a client, and begs her to take a job for her as one last favour. She agrees but really she should have known something was afoot when the car with black windows turns up outside her house to take Amelia to the destination and out steps Candyman himself. Hey I screamed, its Tony Todd, my usual reaction when I see him, thanks to the memory of that Clive Barker film, followed then by Oh! its him, when I remember all the past horror crap I have seen from him in recent years. Thankfully its just a cameo role, as he takes her and the still filming buddy who I really can not remember his name, to this place where other strippers have been hired!
Arnold Schwarzenegger is then seen sitting behind a desk, covered in dark shadows, having been so turned on when Jamie Lee Curtis done that dance for him that its now an addiction. Ok not really but its a set piece that reminds you of True Lies, has each girl dance away while this mystery man sits in the dark. They then get the clap, which usually means a trip to the doctors but in this case an actual clap, you know, when two hands bang together, which is a sign to stop what they doing and for the next girl to dance away. It seems an easy job, they get offered some champagne and told their work is done, and as Amelia feels more easy money is made, Mickey Rooker turns up, yes he of Henry fame and finally a bit of shock horror. Someone who can act!.
“Can you help me? NO!, Can I help you? No! Can you help yourselves? No! Are you absolutely positively fucked? Yes!” and with that one sparkling piece of dialogue he vanishes. Not “pooof” in thin air, just walks away with this being just another cameo to add to that of Todd’s.
It seems that the place they are in, is a basement for where the much wanted Butcher of Baker/ Geeves (Graham Mctavish) a man wanted for the sexual torture of hundreds of women, is practising his belief, and poor Ameila and her new found friends are the new guinea pigs! What he wants in a sort of Jigsaw of Saw fame way, is to change the wicked ways of these strippers, to realise what they are doing is wrong and for them to realise that he has to remove the labia from the woman has that is where the ultimate power is and makes them become the evil force that they are.
So this is where the film goes all Martyrs on us, women get beaten and tortured in all nasty ways but one thing I will say is that while the overall plot is about the pleasure this man gets from torturing these poor girls, director Jake Kennedy saves his big money shot for the suffering of a man, in one of this years most look away horror scenes involving a penis and self harming which is one of the most sickest and down right nasty scenes that had me look away.
Its a cruel film that will leave many fans cold and dirty but for some reason I just could not take my eyes off it. The camera style angle is an unnecessary side plot that distracts from what is going on and it seems to just be here because its the “fashion” thing. Its the only modern technique in a film that surely belongs in the time when Spit On Your Grave and co were doing the rounds, I could even say that this film could fit into Rawlinson’s Exploitation Thread, such is the intent of the director to match those films and in many ways he achieves those goals.
Its so far removed from the likes of Hostel, that there is no tension or sympathy for those involved, just a film that leaves you shaking your head in disapproval. All based on the true story of Australian’s Butcher of Bega Graeme Stephen Reeves, its a dark themed story that is destined to find many one star ratings, but for some reason for all its sickness and downright grotesque imagery, there is something quite compelling and that for me makes me feel quite ashamed!
OVERALL: Sadistic scenes including one memorable penis removal, Penance is not for the mainstream horror fans looking for quick entertainment. Its downright degrading but for serious horror fans, you may want to look away, but you never once want to switch the dvd button to off!