SATURDAY AM REVIEW: Penny Dreadful Premiere: "Night Scares"

American Horror Story has now been topped as the scariest and most disturbing show on television. Penny Dreadful is so twisted that you can’t help but watch. The series borrows from Gothic Horror literature for characters and overall vibe. Sir Malcolm Murray describes the supernatural as “the place where science and superstition walk hand in hand.” This quote is the most genius reference to what the supernatural is and completely sums up the show. 

Ravenous murders have struck Victorian England leading its residents to think Jack the Ripper has returned. Unfortunately, these murders are due to monsters that lurk in the darkness and beneath the city. If only these were nightmares, than Dream Walker would be better equipped to handle the situation. Since the monsters in our dreams lurk in London, explorer Malcolm Murray desperately searches for his daughter, Mina. He enlists the help of Vanessa Ives, Ethan Chandler, and Victor Frankenstein to complete his quest for answers. 

The series is based on 19th Century British comic books called Penny Dreadfuls, Penny Awfuls, or Penny Bloods. They were named for their cheap cost and sensational material aimed at the youth. The serial stories depicted exploits of crime, terror, and adventure. Sweeney Todd was a character that originated in the original Penny Dreadfuls. 

Ethan Chandler, played by Josh Harnett, is an American gun slinger on one of those Annie Oakley shooting type road tours. It is obvious Ethan has selected this job to easily access booze and women. Being the only American, it makes his back story more interesting. Why would he choose to live across the pond in a less developed civilization? He is driven by money and quick to accept an offer from Ms. Ives to act as the bodyguard/protection for Sir Malcolm. He is taken to a seedy underground that appears to be full of addicts and working girls, but it is soon revealed to be a vampire’s lair. 

The standout character and performance comes from Eva Green as Vanessa Ives; she is very dark with many secrets. Appearing to be a fortune teller of sorts, Ives is definitely connected somehow to the “other side.” Every time she prays alone in this creepy room, spiders emerge from a cross. I HATE spiders and this only made me hate them more. The presence of Ms. Ives just gives me heebie jeebies. She works for Malcolm, but we don’t quite know the history of their relationship. 

Timothy Dalton holds his own in the show as Sir Malcolm Murray. At first it is a little weird to see Bond being all dark and serious, but then I almost forgot who it was. His career has been a little all over the place recently but now a solid choice and performance. Though the lead, I was more interested in the other characters than Malcolm, probably because his is the straightest or doesn’t seem to have many secrets. 

Malcolm recruits Dr. Victor Frankenstein to perform an autopsy on a vampire corpse, which reveals hieroglyphics from the Book of the Dead under the skin. Frankenstein is still obsessed with life and death and electricity, but he can’t help but accept this science bending proposition. Harry Treadaway portrays Frankenstein as a young, eager, and struggling doctor, which seems like a new direction for the story. Frankenstein is an endlessly adapted story, and I am interested to see the similarities and differences from Shelley’s novel. 

I love vampires, have been since a young kid. I will watch anything and everything within the vampire world. Penny Dreadful may have vampires as the catalyst for the series but appears to be more creatures to the story. The little seen of the vampires actually seems like a new take. They look very similar to other incarnations but appear to have a mythological history; this could be similar to the Mayan take in From Dusk Til Dawn yet more rooted in English history. 

There are three characters we have yet to learn how they fit into this mysterious world. I’m sure it’s not on uplifting terms. Showtime and other premium channels are creating these riveting, cinematic pieces that rival any films or network shows being produced today. Penny Dreadful has me intrigued and curious to see what literary figures will appear and what supernatural deviations, especially regarding vampires, will be taken. 

By Kasey Michael--a lover of all things entertainment. Born and bred in North Carolina, she has a degree in Film Studies and can usually be found in front of a screen.