Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Penance (2009)

The year is almost over, and I'm frantically trying to watch as many 2009 releases as possible in order to produce a top-picks list. Unfortunately, some releases don't hit DVD until January (H2, Pandorum, The Final Destination, Saw VI) or February (The Stepfather, Zombieland), so I may release a revised 2009 top-picks list a tad later in 2010. Next week is the last week I will watch 2009 releases before compiling my list, but I don't have high hopes for movies like Jennifer's Body.

I'm not exactly sure how I came across this film--an ad on the Video ETA web site, I think--but it wasn't as bad as I expected, both in quality and in gruesomeness, which it was made out to be jam-packed with. It was dark and depressing (as torture/exploitation films tend to be), but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be...save for two highly disturbing scenes. I've never been nauseous watching movies, unless of course the camerawork is far too helter skelter (e.g. Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project), but there were two scenes in Penance that left my head swimming. One scene in particular went where Jack Ketchum wasn't willing to go in his book, The Girl Next Door.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this one. It's a gritty portrayal of defilement. Movies like Hostel popped into my head as I watched it, but it isn't quite in the same vein. Penance has a tone and atmosphere of its own, and that atmosphere is dark. By the time it was over I wanted to watch cartoons, the Food Network, HGTV, anything to get the movie out of my head (though I ended up watching District 9, Thirst, and Inglourious Basterds the next night, instead). But, as I said, it's not a bad movie. It is not poorly made. Penance is another unique offering in the line of recent cinéma vérité films, but far from the top of the list.

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