If there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s learned helplessness. Some movies run on the stuff, and it’s frustrating to watch. Unfortunately, it also reminds me of Richard Brandes’ 2006 film, “Penny Dreadful,” part of After Dark’s Horrorfest.
Penny Deerborn’s (Rachel Miner) parents died in a car crash, which she witnessed. This caused her to become amaxophobic (the fear of riding in a car). Her therapist, Orianna Volkes (Mimi Rogers) thinks that her confronting her fear is the best treatment, so she takes her on a trip.
In a car. It should go without saying that both ladies would have been better off had they stayed at home.
They accidentally almost hit someone on the way – which understandably causes Penny to freak out – though Orianna learns that the blow was only a glancing one.
She then offers the person a ride, which – despite the hitchhiker never once revealing their face and looking very creepy – I could at least understand why she did so because she had just hit them with a car.
What follows – unfortunately – is a lot of screaming on the part of Penny. No matter what happens, she’s either sitting screaming, whining helplessly (or some variation on that theme) as a killer toys with her.
I don’t suffer from any overpowering fears, so perhaps Miner’s portrayal is an accurate one for people under such circumstances, though my problem is that she’s remarkably reluctant to actually do anything that would improve her situation.
And whenever she actually does anything, it’s accompanied by even more whining.
Watching as I write, I sometimes get the feeling that this is going to end as an exercise in extreme therapy for Penny, which is perhaps the only way anything makes sense.
And speaking of extreme therapy, there are moments when you’re not sure if what’s going on is real, or in Penny’s head, which would have been an interesting tact to take: Penny slowly losing her mind, imagining, hallucinating everything that went on around her.
Instead, we get a real killer – an escapee from a mental asylum, no less, which means more crying and whining. Not to sound mean, but I felt like killing Penny more than a few times myself, which is why I wished that she got a little dreadful, instead of pathetic.