7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Following the oddball cult hit "Cold Sweat," the Argentinean filmmaking team of Adrian and Ramiro Garcia Bogliano return with "Penumbra." "Cold Sweat" was not a particularly good movie, to my mind, and yet its sheer madness made it strangely alluring. When I settled in to watch this movie, I was not aware of the connection but it didn't take me long to link the two movies based on a similar tone. It's very distinctive and recognizable! So if you like one of these films, you will undoubtedly embrace the other. So over-the-top as to veer into comedy, it's hard to take either very seriously. And yet, there's something unexpectedly compelling and different enough about the style to keep you interested. "Penumbra" is marketed in the horror category but, in truth, it probably won't satisfy viewers expecting big scares and thrills. At best, this is an exercise in creepiness. And, as I said, due to the broadness of the script and performances, I was more amused than terrified. For me, that was enough.
The story unfolds in real time, basically ninety minutes on the day of a rare solar eclipse. A brash Spanish lawyer (Cristina Brondo) is in Buenos Aries on business. She is also tending to an inherited property that she hopes to rent out. When she meets a realtor at the dilapidated apartment, he seems desperate to make an immediate deal. Snapping at an offer that seems too good to be true, she waits for the arrival of the potential renter as the day becomes increasingly odd. It is clear from the get-go that something malevolent is at work here. Although the script tends to hint at possible madness in the central character (which might have been an interesting angle), it is never a viable option. The movie has already opened with an a violent act unrelated to the heroine, so the viewer knows something nefarious is going on in reality. As more people arrive at the apartment, each increasingly suspicious and one in a bad wig, Brondo finally figures out that something is amiss. But is it too late? What is happening and is there any escape?
In the first hour of "Penumbra," not much really happens. Brondo's role is surely one of the most evil and reprehensible characters ever to anchor a film. She is so nasty and over-the-top, you can't wait for something truly awful to happen to her. Seriously, I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of her ultimate demise. Her ego is largely her undoing, and that's surely the point. Brondo is certainly committed, but it is so overstated as to come across as comedy. I'll say that the humor is intentional, for it must be, but I'm not one hundred percent sure. Likewise, the realtor and his cohorts are so bizarre, it's hard to imagine that this doesn't register in a more tangible way with Brondo. In short, I didn't believe a minute of it. And yet, it was eminently watchable and fun in a macabre fashion. Not much is explained in the big finale, but I found a certain charm in its simplicity as well. I liked "Penumbra" despite its inherent flaws. I suspect it might be a love-it or hate-it proposition for some. I just relaxed and went with the flow and, with moderate expectations, I was amused throughout. But again, it might be a disappointment for those looking for real horror. KGHarris, 8/12.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Penumbra (The Bogliano Brothers, 2011)
The Argentinian thriller Penumbra shares some of the same problems as Chilean thriller Baby Shower, which I reviewed recently. Specifically, this is a movie that starts off slow, slow, slow, which seems to be a common thread among South American movies that style themselves horror (q.v. The Silent House review from a couple of years ago as well). But whereas Baby Shower just kept getting worse as time went on, Penumbra morphed into a fun, if not terribly original, little picture once the pace picked up.
Marga (L'auberge Espagnol's Cristina Brondo) and Ana (voice of Dr. Hell's Ana Luna--we only ever experience Ana via Marga's cell phone) are Spanish sisters who inherited a loft apartment eight years previous. It's located in Argentina, where the two spend two months every year for business purposes, and because of the bad neighborhood, they consider it unrentable. Out of the blue, though, Marga is contacted by Jorge (Berta Muñiz from the Plaga Zombie franchise), acting as an agent for someone who feels the apartment will be perfect for his needs, despite the fact that he can afford a great deal better. That's the first thing that sets alarm bells off in Marga's head, but being the greedy, generally nasty person she is (there's an early scene of her tasering and berating a panhandler that sets the tone of her personality). She meets Jorge and Victoria (Chiquitas' Camila Bordonaba), who identifies herself as his driver, at the apartment, and the three settle in to wait for the new owner, Mr. Salva (The Fish Child's Arnaldo André), to come and sign some papers. Time drags on, and more alarm bells start going off in Marga's head as things get weirder--but her desperation to get the apartment off her hands keeps her there.
There's a lot of interesting stuff in here about class warfare (not only in the panhandler bit, but more subtly in the way Marga treats the elderly neighbor from the second floor), as well as some other incisive commentary on other things I really can't get into without spoilery bits; suffice to say that if you like social commentary in your thrillers, you don't have to dig too far down in this one without running across some. But it's all handled very well. At no point do the Bros. Bogliano stop the plot for a "but now, here's an IMPORTANT MESSAGE ABOUT RACISM!" moment, which is a very good thing indeed. I'm not entirely sure the movie ever quite gels the way it's supposed to, and a lot of people absolutely hated the last five minutes (I'm not one of them, though I do admit the whole thing felt kind of like a shaggy-dog joke when we hit that last bit. But then, I love shaggy-dog-joke movies; the original Ocean's Eleven is one of my favorite films of all time), so keep that in the back of your head. But it's some good stuff, nothing you should spend months/years tracking down but worth a watch if you happen upon it at Redbox. ***
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I watched this movie on line and because there was nothing else I was interested in decided to give this one a shot.
Well, I kept the remote in my hand thinking that I'd be picking something else to watch but this movie was just entrancing. I put the remote down and watched the way the main actress played this arrogant "bitchy" lawyer and when I thought I had it figured out something came out of left field and I just couldn't stop watching.
The other reviewers did a nice job reviewing the movie and I agree with all they said. This is an odd little thriller that'll keep you on edge and wondering. When you thought you had it figured out, it throws you for a loop.
Great movie with not a lot of action or horror but the director and the actors/actresses did a great job in keeping their audience wondering, "What the hell is gonna happen next? " Just bought it because it's that good. Worthy in anybody's collection.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Penumbra has a rather horrific climax but it's not really a horror film, more a thriller, and definitely an odd one. A rather arrogant woman is supposed to meet someone to rent an apartment that has been in her family, and when she arrives & finds someone waiting outside the door, the assumption is that this is the realtor with whom she is to meet. After some almost darkly-comedic encounters and a lot of chattering, news of an impending solar eclipse that day, and more and more people from the supposed realtor's office showing up, things begin to get a bit strange and definitely take on a sinister tone. And as Marga begins to suspect things are not what they seem, it's far too late for her to do anything about it. Especially when the "client" that everyone has been talking about finally shows up. The ending is very strange, and leaves one wondering exactly what DID happen, because there appears to be no evidence that anything did, or at least anything that was done by someone other than Marga. Worth seeing if you like off-beat thrillers, and warning: It's in Spanish with subtitles.