Halloween (2007)’s own Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, Tyler Mane and Scout Taylor-Compton star in this dark tale of crime and punishment, in Peter Engert’s, Penance Lane.
Penance Lane spins the story of ex-convict, Crimson Matthews (Mane). Fresh out of prison, Crimson makes his way to a quiet small town and takes on the role of working as a handyman on a run-down derelict house. A monumentous amount of work isn’t the only thing that needs doing to the mysterious residence as it harbours a dark and twisted secret within the basement which is where the horror truly begins.
Crimson befriends the local diner owner, Jan (April Bogenschutz) and her daughter Sherry (Compton) but gets on the wrong side of the petty jobsworth Sherriff (Daniel Roebuck) while gaining a second chance from the local preacher, Father John (John Schneider).
With nothing original or different brought to the table, Penance Lane is unfortunately a pile of wasted potential. The dialogue is clunky, the scenes don’t transition seamlessly, and the performances are rather ropey. A film running around the 84-minute mark shouldn’t feel like its outstaying its welcome but sadly that’s what this does.
From the opening moments, there’s a contrived scenario of a break-in gone awry, the forced, unconvincing performances set the tone for what’s to come. The introduction of Mane’s character “5 years later” doesn’t fare much better considering the bizarre way the female characters fawn all over him despite his brutish behaviour. Crimson witnesses Sherry being mistreated by her jerk of a boyfriend. He doesn’t know either party but takes it upon himself to enact quite mean-spirited violence on the young man.
Following this, Jan and Sherry are taking the former jailbird under their wings, despite him even admitting that he’s a thug. Without really getting to know this guy, we are being led to root for him which is completely baffling as there hasn’t been a strong job of setting him up in a positive light despite the viewers awareness of his chequered past.What’s meant to be heart-warming comes across as mind-boggling as these two ladies follow him around with puppy-dog eyes and an air of desperation. This is unwelcome writing for women in the genre that I personally don’t want to see.
To their credit, Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane and John Schneider do their uttermost best with the material they’ve been given. Compton is believable as a young woman fearful for her life proving the strongest link in the cast. Mane delivers a decent performance as the anti-hero type character even though the writing for his part is rather skewered. John Schneider seems to be having a blast bringing in a campy performance within the nonsensical plot.
Penance Lane borrows tried and tested horror tropes. Anything that happens isn’t remotely surprising with some scenes being lingered on for longer than they need to be. There’s a repeated shot of the dilapidated house each time something untoward is about to happen there that’s seemingly a reference to Halloween. Without revealing any spoilers, there’s also a character seen in flashbacks and later in the present time who appears to be in the same position sat next to a chess board each time we see him which is both perplexing and disbelieving.
Penance Lane squanders away any potential it does show making for a quickly forgettable horror flick that didn’t try hard enough in developing the narrative or its characters. With a questionable script and misguided character motivations, Penance Lane is a deflating movie experience by the end. It’s standard horror fare but there are so many movies that achieve this on a greater scale. It may be worth checking out for fans of any of the main cast, especially if fans of the Halloween reboots want to see its core stars together in another horror movie.
Penance Lane will be released on VOD on April 21st, 2020.