Furthering the Zombie connection is the presence of Compton (the lead in Zombie’s remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween). Compton is well on her way to becoming the Dee Wallace of her generation, having appeared in several B-movies. There will come a time when Compton must leave behind the “last girl standing” role, but until then, she handles the job well. She has a toughness about her that, combined with her geniality and femininity, makes her an ideal horror movie protagonist.
On the other hand, Mane is unquestionably a foreboding presence and would scare the pants off of anyone unlucky enough to cross him. Yet, Matthews’s relationship with Sherry betrays his natural gruffness as he fights to protect her from absolute butchery whilst maintaining an arm’s length distance to their quasi-father-daughter relationship.
“…an unclean and creepy B-movie funhouse.”
Penance Lane instantly engages the audience with a wonderfully scary intro sequence. Following a robbery, the criminals stumble upon the old Victorian house looking for a safe place to stash their $3 million haul. Guns cocked, they separate and scope out the home to ensure privacy. They don’t find it. An unseen force literally sucks the men one-by-one like a vacuum (a nifty effect) into the dark recesses of the house. OK, I’m on board!
The film announces its grindhouse intentions with the backwater burg setting, rusty interiors, and all manner of crazy freaks scurrying about. There is even an abandoned car cemetery in a lot next to the house. How’s that for grindhouse-chic?
Although the movie’s presentation is more polished and professional than real grindhouse flicks tend to be (look at the original versions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Last House on the Left for comparison), Penance Lane manages to be a more than worthy addition to the genre. A gory, ghoulish good time that perhaps irrationally, reinforces my fear of what lies beyond the relative safety of the city.