'Penumbra' DVD Review: Smart Heroine Heightens Routine Scares

'Penumbra' DVD Review: Smart Heroine Heightens Routine Scares

The main character in the new horror movie “Penumbra” isn’t your typical Survivor Girl.

For starters, she’s not stupid. She’s crafty, devious … even downright mean at times. She dares you to tolerate her behavior.

And when the blood starts a-shedding in “Penumbra,” out on DVD Aug. 28, her brain doesn’t turn off as is the case with so many other horror movie characters.

The new Spanish thriller still requires patience, and its big reveal can’t be seen as anything but a letdown. Good thing the film’s final few minutes force us to reconsider what we’ve just witnessed in a way that doesn’t betray the film’s modest achievements.

Written and directed by brothers Adrian Garcia Bogliano and Ramiro Garcia Bogliano, the story follows the headstrong Marga (Cristina Brondo), a Spanish lawyer trying to rid herself of an apartment unit in Argentina, a country she abhors.

She finds a potential buyer willing to overpay for the property, so she bends a few rules to make it happen. The would-be buyer’s representatives seem both nervous and impatient about the deal, and soon Marga realizes a too good to be true deal may be more than even she can handle.

The film’s creepy elements line up for our approval, from a stubborn elevator to a homeless man who somehow can belittle Marga without anyone taking her side. Then again, who would eagerly take Marga’s word on anything? She’s as cold as she is cunning, a beautiful woman who uses everyone around her without a hint of moral revulsion.

Heck, she’s the type who gets slaughtered first in your average horror movie, but here she’s our conduit into the building’s bigger mysteries. Perhaps the only genre convention adhered to rigorously is getting Marga into an outfit that reveals her appealing decolletage.

Still, one must wait … and wait … for the story to slowly reveal itself and the narratives tiny knots to untangle. Who is Mr. Salva, and why does he want this awful, bug-infested apartment so badly?

The string-heavy score pays perfect homage to those unnerving ’70s horror movies, the kind with bargain basement effects which still gave us nightmares.

“Penumbra” hints at other, superior horror movies without measuring up, but it will best be remembered for making us cheer on one pretty scary heroine.

Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies