Why so series? – Penny Dreadful

Yay, I’m not dead.

So, about that show I most recently watched.

Penny Dreadful is a good series.

To start, Penny Dreadful is grotesque, haunting and very slow-paced. If you’re looking for a fast-paced series with many twists and turns, you should back away.

Penny Dreadful chronicles the misadventures of Vanessa Ives and company, mostly made up of sad souls that find themselves on the wrong side of the supernatural and often fighting for their lives. The main story-lines revolve mostly around Miss Ives, but the rest of the cast are well fleshed-out.

The main cast of season one, with a notable exclusion. (From left, Ethan Chandler, Brona Croft, Victor Frankenstein, Vanessa Ives, Dorian Gray, Sir Malcolm Murray, Sembene)

Miss Vanessa Ives (brilliantly played by Eva Green, but we’ll get back to her) is a woman that is haunted by many demons, both personal and literal. She forms a team with an old friend of the family, and a rag-tag group of broken men as she seeks to save not only her father-figure’s real daughter and herself from unfathomable evils.

Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) is a famous explorer, having mapped big parts of Africa and intends to return for more (especially to look for the elusive source of the Nile). He’s a close ally of Vannessa, as their families were very close, and acts as her father-figure. He searches for his lost daughter Mina, and is haunted by his dead son Peter, who he left in a shallow grave in Africa.

Ethan Chandler (played by Josh Hartnett) is an American gun-show performer and former soldier recruited to the not-quite-merry band by Ives. He initiates a relationship with Brona Croft  in his personal time and during “work hours”, he finds out about a world few know exist in the shadows. He also harbours quite the dark secret.

Brona Croft (played by Billie Piper) is a prostitute that enters a relationship with Ethan. She’s suffering from tuberculosis, and also crosses path with a certain local handsome lad.

Sembene (Danny Sapani) is a servant of Malcolm’s he acquired somehow in Africa. Sembene’s past is a mystery, but his loyalty to the cause is unquestionable.

Dorian Gray (yeah, him – played by Reeve Carney) is a beautiful young man, indulging in sensuality for the most-part of the show. Has his classic painting to keep him young.

Doctor Victor Frankenstein (yes, that one too – played here by Harry Treadwell) is a local arrogant doctor, obsessed with the pursuit of the essence of life. He wants to create an immortal being. He’s extremely socially inept and rather dismissive of the group’s intentions, but finds himself drawn to the action anyway. Now you can probably figure out the last cast member.

Frankenstein’s Monster (Rory Kinnear) is just that. He returns to haunt his creator and demands that Frankenstein creates a wife for him. He has some interesting interactions with the rest of the cast that are of stark contrast to his antagonistic relationship with Frankenstein.

The story these characters are drawn into is very good and simple. It’s a bit predictable at times, but it works well. It lacks direction for long stretches of each season, but I find it works for the show in general.

About the quality of the acting; Eva Green absolutely owns the screen as Vanessa Ives. If anybody doubts her capabilities as an actress, I really don’t know how. She gives you nearly every facet of Miss Ives, from happiness to absolute rock bottom. Her mannerisms, her voice, fucking everything. She’s the best actress on TV by far.

Also great is Harry Treadwell as Victor Frankenstein. His performance is absolutely stellar, and it makes it a treat to watch Frankenstein grow into a man on screen. I’ll be keeping an eye out for him in other projects.


One of my negatives is Dorian Gray. I’m not very fond of the show’s take on the character – Or the character in general. He’s just rather boring and has little impact. He does however improve in season two, and has probably the best side-story. Much better when he’s being played straight, instead of having him strut around and recite poems like a love-sick philosopher. It looks as if he’ll have a big part in season 3, where he might end up being the main villain.


The villains are also rather uninteresting, even if the ones of the second season are far better. Still, the show plays it off well and instead puts more focus on how the “heroes” deal with the situations at hand.

Without spoiling much, the second season is a considerable improvement on the first one, with the stakes being raised and the characters being put in more interesting situations.

The series is gorgeous and the setting is very well presented.

The second season has a story arc about sexuality that was surprisingly effective, and proves that the Dorian Gray character can work with a bit of set-up and not just having him walk around being fabulous. Then it’s just thrown away rather abruptly, which made the whole thing feel like a waste.

The show is also very noir, in the way it treats it’s characters. They usually walk head-long into sadness or deny themselves happiness. Not a whole lot of sunshine and puppies around.

In closing, Penny Dreadful is an excellent ensemble drama with a variety of characters and personalities that usually work well together. It’s quite slow-paced, but is well-worth sticking with. Filled to the brim with spectacular performances – especially that of Green – it’s a constant treat to watch. Very highly recommended.


Film night: Europa Report and Grave Encounters 2

NOTICE: Hi. What you’re reading is an old review from when I was using a different template. It was kind of ugly, so I switched. If I make a mention of spoilers going to be blacked out, they won’t be. Sorry. It’s just so long ago I wrote this and it’s a bother to go back and edit it extensively. Sorry if you get spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t put any major spoilers in anything without giving big warnings about it first. Cheers.

Hey, it’s been a while. So, lets take this one at a time. First off:

Europa Report is a good film.

Europa Report is a weird piece of film. It’s like an exercise in dualism, wrapped up in a beautiful sci-fi flick.


As someone who’s watched horror films throughout most of my life, I see a trend in today’s film industry – especially concerning horror films – that is quite worrying. It’s not enough to paint up a scenario and have things happen. We need to have things pointed out to us , like we’re small children being read a book by our parents. We’re always told what the monster is and what it’s weak point is. We’re always told the moral point of the story, instead of the film-makers making it clear by the story and the actions of its actors. In modern film, subtlety is nearly dead.

Jason Vorhees - also a victim of modern horror, even though the character was hardly subtle in the past.

Jason Vorhees – also a victim of modern horror, even though the character was hardly subtle in the past.

So, why am I rambling on about horror and stuff, when Europa Report (ER for short) is a sci-fi film? You’ll see. Some spoilers down there, but they’re in black, so you have to highlight it to read. Like the following text.

ER is a film about a crew sent to Europa (one of Jupiter’s moons) to try to find proof of life. It’s shot like a documentary, with a slew of camera angles in and outside the ship, as well as a three narratives going on in a parallel. One is of the project leader, and some other members talking after the expedition, one is a crew-member commenting on the third narrative, which is the events on Europa 1 and its crew. The crew arrives on Europa after an accident has cut them one short, and from there things go from bad to fucking shitty.

Visually, ER is a stunning film. It’s an indie film, but I assume they had a decent budget, because it is so pretty.

No joke, the film is incredibly pretty.

No joke, the film is incredibly pretty.

Adding to the beauty of the film is how realistic if feels. The low-to-no-gravity scenes look great, and the film makes a good point of showing what effects months in space has on the travellers.

Not a preferred view of a space ship.

Not a preferred view of a space ship.

The crew on Europa stumble upon what could be one of the greatest finds of all history, but what are the mysterious lights and radiation spikes coming from?

In a way, ER is a horror story. It’s a descent into unknown territory and throwing yourself blindly into what could be certain death. And in a way, a scientific exploration is perfect fodder for horror. The characters have reasons to take risks to uncover things.They’re not just stupid kids walking into the dark and getting killed. That said, ER isn’t a straight horror film. It’s definitely pure sci-fi with some horror elements, as most sci-fi have.

It’s half brilliant and half idiotic, for reasons that are spoilery, so they follow in black text. What ER does in the final act is so unbelievably stupid. After a good hour of building up our curiosity, they decide to show AND tell. What I mean is that we get a definite look at what the crew’s been followed by throughout the film, and it only stands to make the end-product worse.

In the final moments of footage, the lights that the crew have come upon are revealed to be octopus-like creatures, and the lights are simply the tips of their tentacles, like those funny-looking predatory fishes in deeeeeeeep sea. It just poses a shit-ton more questions why we never saw anything else than the lights at random times. Surely the probe would have seen other life underwater if the octopus-like creatures use the light as a lure, especially when the probe had lights on it. Then the closing monologue wraps it up like the octopus-thing was the one thing to make it all worth it. It’s just such an unnecessary last-minute addition that shows up and changes the nature of the film. Just very bitter and annoying to see.

All in all, I think Europa Report is a very good film, but with some seriously detracting elements. It’s at the very least a definite watch if you’re a fan of sci-fi.

On to the next one, then:

Grave Encounters 2 is a good film.

Grave Encounters was one of the few good found-footage films that got a gigantic following (the genre, not the film, although the film might have a big following) after The Blair Witch Project popped up and made people excited for the new take on the genre.

GE was good despite the found-footage angle, instead making the formula work with creative scares and brilliant build-up. It also featured some stellar acting, especially by the leading man. It was about a small film crew visiting a shut-down mental hospital for their very b show. The presenter’s rapid descent from confidence and scepticism into downright terror and madness was nearly perfectly executed, and set the bar high for its successor.

GE2 works on the premise that the events during the first film actually happened. The crew disappeared and the horrors that took place really happened. Film student Alex takes his friends and girlfriend with him on his hunt for the truth, which takes them to the very place that the first film took place at.

So these guys show up again.

So these guys show up again.

Let’s be clear,the film is very meta. As it takes place “in the real world” it can talk shit about modern films and name-drop Wes Craven, among others. Even the ending further nails on how meta the film is.

It’s ironic, with how the film unabashedly slams modern horror for being uncreative, repetitive and soulless when it itself for the longest time is all of these. The film-students themselves are absolute hacks, that are filming a horror flick more b than Jason Voorhees’ left boot. They talk about having ambitions to revolutionise the genre while they produce horror by the numbers. Obviously it’s on purpose, given how overly bad the acting is in the guys’ film, and can be seen as a jab towards the repetitiveness and staleness of the genre as well, but it soon becomes clear that the film-makers themselves are just re-treading their previous film, both in tone and in story. Or are they?

In what is as close to a stroke of genius a horror film gets, the film throws the viewers a huge curve-ball and turns the entire premise on its head. It’s probably the greatest horror twist in the last decade. It even adds to its own mythos and succeeds in being truly creepy before the rather predictable – but nonetheless exciting – climax. It even manages to be really funny along the way.

It’s definitely recommended for horror fans who like their horror to be creative as well as scary. While it’s certainly not the best horror film ever and far from it, it’s very entertaining, albeit the first half hour is complete garbage and entirely unnecessary for the film.

I’d say it was a nice night of film-viewing. See y’all next time, whenever that’ll be.