Penny Dreadful: Hammer House of Porn
Do you know what there’s never enough of in the world? Campy horror. The likes of Dog Soliders or Nightmare on Elm Street (RIP Wes Craven, living on forever in my worst nightmares), the kind of touch-in-cheek, banterous fun that seems missing from decent but uber-serious scarefests like Sinister or Insidious. And I’ll tell you what reminded me of this, this honestly galling lack of campy horror: Penny Dreadful.
I caught the first seies of this Victorian-set supernatural drama last year, but somehow forgot to write about it for some reason I can’t currently remember. I liked it, loved it, even, but it sort of faded in my memory amongst stuff like Hannibal and Vikings (Vikings, though. Can we talk about the fact you’ve not been watching Vikings? I’m really personally hurt by the notion that you might not watch Vikings. Anyway). But the second series has hung around in my memory in the few weeks since I watched it, so I’ve come hear to bend your ear about it now.
Right, so the series revolves around a collection of characters, some taken from famous fictional novels (Frankenstein, his Monster, Dorian Grey, Mina Harker) and some created out of while cloth. Look, I’m going to throw this out there and say my recapping the premise will not do much to enlighten you. I know there were witches and demons and some genuinely spooky moments, but it’s all kind of lost in the glorious melee.
So, let’s talk about those characters. Timothy Dalton and Eva Green play the central duo, Vanessa Ives and Sir Malcolm Harker, a woman haunted by demons and her pseudo-father, who also happens to be a world adventurer. When Vanessa ends up in some deep water with alpha-witch Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory), she enlists the help of her crew. That crew includes Ethan Chandler (Josh Mcdermitt- I know, I know, what the hell, right?), an American migrant who’s also an, um werewolf, and Doctor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), an opium-addicted re-animator with one of his own creations (Rory Kinnear) on his tail. Oh, yeah, and also Billie Piper is the reanimated corpse of an Irish prostitute. And the criminally sexy Dorian Grey is also hanging about London having tender sweaty sex with whoever That everyone? That’s everyone.
So, as you can see, the “plot” is ridiculous and everything about it is nonsense. Insane is a show which manages to hue out moments of deceptive beauty, even if they are set against the backdrop of constant baby-killing, shopping montages, and Helen McCrory poking at voodoo dolls. Take, for instance, Rory Kinnear as the monster, a creature taught to speak by reading literature. His dialogue is gorgeous, his interactions vulnerable and not-quite human and by turns downright scary.
But then, that’s just one member of the cast. It’s Eva Greene’s throaty-voiced, lusciously dramatic show, obviously, as she spans every human emotion you’ve ever had and then some, but Josh Mcdermitt puts in an almost criminally good performance in what should be kind of a dull role. Timothy Dalton just swaggers around proving how ridiculously good he still looks for his age, and Bille Piper gets an awesome arc that stretches her further than Rose ever did. Most of my love is reserved for Harry Treadaway, however, because that guy not only has the definition of an interesting face:
-and the definition of a career-making performance. His scientific reasoning up against the those supernatural premise is good enough, but throw in an addiction, a God complex, and his doomed romantic intentions and you’ve got a character who hangs around in the back of my
Oh, and let’s not forget Reeve Carney as Dorain, a louche lothario who has no right to be as trouser-exploding sexy as he is. Much of the camp revolves around his Hammer House of Porn subplots, which rarely bare any weight on the actual plot but are nonetheless stupidly fun to watch. I’m not even sure if he can act, kind of like Ed Westwick in Gossip Girl, but he was definetly born to inhabit this role.
Not only this, but it looks great, has insanely sumptuous costumery, and packs in the moments of memorable camp from start to finish amongst all the deadly serious stuff. And, if this hasn’t yet convinced you of it’s camp credentials, legendary Broadway actress Patti LuPone guest-stars in a whole flashback episode as a feminist witch!