Penny Dreaful Review – Night Work
Have you ever wondered what the Amoral B-team of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would look like? Well if you haven’t but now think that sounds like an amazing idea then this might be the show to watch. Penny Dreadful pulls its name from the 19th century British publications that serialized macabre tales for the price of a penny. It is where many characters or ideas in horror got started included such bog standards such as vampires, with Varney, Sweeny Todd and even Dickens had a go at them. While this is a great source of little known but an interesting pool of material to pull from the show itself may have to do a bit more work to live up to even these 19th century standards.
While Dreadful make a concerted effort to capture the look if not feel of 19th century London the atmosphere were are presented with is often flat, stark and uninteresting. It lacks the gritty depth that one would expect from this era. This could be a conscious decision on the part of the storytellers that pays off later but in this pilot, it left me feeling cold and distant from what was happening instead of being drawn in.
We get into the meat of the show with Harnett’s Character, Chandler playing a Buffalo Bill type character setting about with his wild show and screwing some woman on the side of his wagon. He is contracted by Eva Green’s character of Vanessa Ives. That draws Chandler, which she quickly and with Sherlock like precision sizes up, and his gun slinging skills into a dark world that we come to find is on of vampires and possibly other monsters. She is led by the rather engaging Timothy Dalton who plays explorer Malcolm Murray. He is the father to Mina who, in Stoker’s work, marries Jonathan Harker and is then pursued by Dracula. Whether Dracula will make an appearance is not known but what is, and is setting up the possible arc for this season, is that Malcolm is looking to save/cure Mina (with all presumptions that Dracula or something of his ilk won and she is a vampire) and is recruiting those with special skills and loose morals to do so. This leads him to the vice laden and ambivalent Chandler and the manically sociopathic and obsessed Dr. Frankenstein.
The show does do a deft job, so far, at weaving together these “secondary” literary characters some of the actions and atmosphere falls, again, a bit flat. The dialog is at times both overly enigmatic, interesting and tries to hard. There is a feeling that these people are supposed to be a little bit crazy, smart, repugnant and focused all at the same time. While an interesting point to take it often felt forced and a bit stiff but it not so much that it becomes unbearable. This is something that will likely work itself out into a more fluid manner as the show progresses. In addition, for being a horror-based show, and on Showtime, the gore factor was surprisingly low. While they did pile on the blood and body parts, sometimes needlessly, there was a bit of cheapness to it. Nothing really sold me or made me want to gag which I was hoping.
Overall, I would say it was a solid outing for the show. It does leave me interested in how they are going to integrate other characters like Dorian Gray and Brona Croft or even Dr. Frankenstein monster that he managed to resurrect at the end of the pilot. There is a lot of potential and interesting enough characters to come back for a bit more.
The Rating: 7/10
– Vanessa and her super repentance and tripping out sessions
– Dr. Frankenstein’s creepy and morally sour talk with Malcolm
– Vanessa sizing up Chandler and their meetings
– The interesting take on vampires and the Egyptian connection
– The Egyptologist
– The opening scene of lady on a bog
– The vampire blood and slug pit
– The vampires
– The ridiculous dismembered lady on a bog
– Unnecessary autopsy penis