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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Review: Penance Lane

Director: Péter Engert
Screenplay: Munier Sharrieff
Year: 2020

Crimson, an ex-convict, arrives at a small and quiet town after being released from prison searching for work and a chance to rebuild his life. A local preacher offers him the job of restoring an old house, to what Crimson agrees. Shortly after being in the house, he discovers that his place hides as many secrets as he does.

In the opening scene, we see a group of men who enter an old house armed with every sort of assault rifles, led by ex-wrestler Booker T, whose character in this movie is named Shooter. After doing a few rounds inside the house they are suddenly attacked by a force they cannot see and not even their weapons are useful. In this scene, it is shown that what happens in the house is due to a supernatural force, an idea that is later suddenly abandoned as the story progresses and which is the main issue of the movie.

After the initial scene, we get to know Crimson Matthews, interpreted by also ex-wrestler Tyler Mane (“Halloween”) as he arrives at the small town and meets Sherry and her mother Jan, interpreted by Scout Taylor-Compton (“Halloween”; “The Lurker”) and April Bogenschutz (“Dark Roads 79”) and who are essential to the plot. Both Tyler Mane, as well as Scout Taylor-Compton, have important roles and both deliver good performances and create convincing and likable characters, especially Mane who plays with the balance between being rough as well as likable and he does a great job at this, as well as the rest of the cast that what stands out the most about this movie.

Crimson quickly accepts the job the preacher offers, and this takes us once more to the inside of the beaten-up house. In the first scenes of Crimson inside the house, we can better appreciate the design thanks to a slower rhythm and better illumination, which is excellent for a horror movie by looking like if it was extracted from a nightmare and that is the principal element for establishing the tone. Later, when the plot decides to take an unexpected and sloppy turn, the villains are shown, which have an impressive, horrific, and effective appearance.

While the cast does a great job and the visual part is interesting and well done, a product of the work of debuting director Péter Engert, both are affected by the weak script from novice Munier Sharrieff. The most severe of its problems is this sudden change in style that gives the impression that is was not well planned and that ends up being more frustrating than surprising. Similarly, there are many details and character decisions that were not well worked, and this problem appears constantly throughout the movie and harms its quality. Just for mentioning one of these problems, at a certain point in the story, it is revealed that Crimson has some knowledge of what’s going on in the house, yet he enters it completely unprepared to defend himself.

“Penance Lane” develops a story that is unoriginal and that we have seen dozens of times, where crime drama is mixed with suspense and horror, but the sudden and badly done changes in the direction of the plot are its worse problem. The cast does a great job and the design of the house and the villains is phenomenal, but the lack of care for details and narration overpowers all that is well done. The plot is not bad and has some good moments, but nothing that puts it above an average movie.

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