Film Review Penance
Director: Jake Kennedy (2008)
Torture porn, torture porn, torture porn ………………………….. Rah …………….. Wah ……. break down of society ………….. Freedom of expression …….. Think of the children ………………….. Won’t someone please think of the children?
There are a ton of great debates regarding so many different areas of cinema, best bond film? Predator vs Terminator? Does Edward Norton in fight club make up for Edward Norton in reality? How do we stop McG making another Charlies Angels? But sometimes you come across a debate so artificial, so manufactured that it takes your breath away, the torture porn debate has to be a prime example. It probably was something genuine in the beginning, way back when films like Last House on The Left (Original obviously) were being banned in America, or Base Moi spun a load of free speech rallies in France, but look how it’s ‘evolved’! Now we have one ‘side’ who hold up violent films like they’re the enemy of morality and do all they can to ban in order to defend a bunch of conservative, twee, golden age mythological crap, while the other ‘side’ overuse words like shocking and controversial in order to gain all the publicity they possibly can. Both ‘sides’ are completely hypocritical, Passion of the Christ violent? Oh no that’s a defence of conservative values, Schindler’s List, oh that’s not violent enough, no no, watch Auschwitz by Uwe Boll, much more ‘real’ and entertaining.
Listen I’m quite happy watching violent films, I defend Saw 1 as pretty much a work of genius, didn’t mind Human Centipede First Cut, grimaced at Ichi The Killer and became even more hardened against religion with Martyr. I’m not against them in any way shape or form, though there are some I wish I hadn’t watched, and a couple I’ve put off watching till an unspecified later date. But I’ll be honest; probably over half of them are crap. Absolute dogs body, one good moment on the train ruined by a bunch of unnecessary torture, child gangs roaming around throwing bricks, Hostel style crap. Sometimes I even find myself telling people don’t watch such and such, not because the film shouldn’t be allowed to exist, or shouldn’t be seen but because it’s just so godless damned derivative and poor. On the other side of the coin, I don’t like period dramas…………….. so I don’t watch them. I don’t wail and moan or bitch about them being released, I just carry on living my life as if they don’t exist.
The thing that gets me is I’m sure about 90 percent of the film fans are the exact same, they want to see something, they watch it, it isn’t recommended or it sounds like The Postman, they don’t. Why do any more column inches get taken up by this?
Penance is the latest from my middle brother’s vault of horror and another addition to the torture porn genre. Best described as Saw meets Cloverfield, I can’t really say it achieves either style effectively, but there’s nothing too bad about the approach. Don’t get me wrong, all the clichés are thrown in; over the top crying, screaming, running, plot twists that don’t make sense, mutilations and god complex pseudo philosophy, but despite this, I’m refreshed to see someone trying to do something a bit different with the material. I’m gonna stop here, or at least I’m putting a closing sentence here so if you haven’t seen it, nothing’s spoilt. My Advice would be, if you like the Saw stuff check it out, if you’re a bit squeamish or prefer your horror more bumps in the night psychological, go rent Blair Witch and don’t put yourself through it. Spoiler to follow so only read on if you’re not gonna watch, are going to watch but don’t care about knowing what happens or don’t give two shits and needed something to do while your youtube video loads. (Why are they taking so long to load at the minute?)
Ok, so the story sums up thusly, single mother needs money for child’s operation so starts stripping, finds it fun but ends up in wrong place at wrong time becoming hostage to religious crazy guy accompanied by strange Spanish speaking nurse who proceeds to physically and mentally torture her until she turns the tables and get revenge. The idea is that the mother, Amelia (played by Marieh Delfino) was making a personal video to one of those charitable T.V. shows so the whole things done as a diary, then the crazies have their own camera. I’m in two minds about this, on the one hand I like the effect only being able to see via a camera creates, on the other, it’s pretty mind numbingly stupid, for instance the crazies let Amelia keep her camera on her, despite stripping her and taking everything else she owns, but never mention why, so for no reason at all Amelia gets to run around recording their crimes.
To be fair to the camera style though, Mr Kennedy (Kennedy see what I did there?) uses it well, there’s a chase scene in the middle that’s tense precisely because the camera style can only show us glimpses of the pursuers and where they are, so it’s mixed bag I guess. The chase scene incidentally has one of the stupidest conclusions I’ve ever seen, basically Amelia’s on the run with her cell mate whose just been beaten pretty nastily, they try to hide in different rooms and corridors of the crazy guy’s facility but the girl leaves a trail of blood. Instead of ditching bleeding girl, or using a blood trail as a trap, Amelia decides the best course of action is to go back to their beds and pretend they never ran off in the first place. A whipping later and guess what she learned!
Torture porn time, channelling the spirit of Lars Van Trier (A would be Nazi to those without a Danish sense of humour or irony) Mr Kennedy (Kennedy) has two genital mutilation scenes here, and it’s basically the reverse of Antichrist, Amelia gets her clitoris and G-spot cut out while the crazy guy cuts off his penis. It’s slightly more toned down than Antichrist but follows almost the exact formula, even having post incident bleeding (though thankfully not the masturbation part). It’s a talking point but that’s about its entire contribution to plot or character development.
The rest of the film like I said is a lot of screaming and running, crazy guy gets some religious zealot lines about how he’s purifying these strippers to help him into heaven but it’s all pretty shallow. I will say that both crazy guy, (Geeves played by Graham McTavish) and Marieh Delfino give very strong performances, Delfino particularly I think has scream queen written all over he if she so chooses.
I like this film because it’s something different and I think Mr Kennedy (Kennedy) shows a lot of promise, he has good control over pacing, lighting and sound. It’s just that while it’s a different approach, there’s nothing unique in here, Saw already did the torture and the philosophy scenes, Cloverfield did the running scenes, Antichrist did the mutilation scenes and Mr Kennedy (Kennedy) clearly did the watching. To close for a second time, nothing remarkable, nothing terrible, nice if you like the genre, as boring as Sex Lives Of the Potato Men if you don’t. Keep your eye on Mr Kennedy (Kennedy), I predict I’ll be giving him some rave reviews in the future.
Written by Sam ‘Did you know the clitoris is an underdeveloped penis’ McKinstrie