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Penumbra (2011)

Cover art:

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PenumbraStarring Christina Brondo, Camila Bordonaba, Berta Muniz, Arnaldo Andre

Written and directed by Adrián García Bogliano, Ramiro García Bogliano


Penumbra, the follow-up to Adrián and Ramiro García Bogliano’s geriatric thriller Cold Sweat, is a very different film than its predecessor. Where Cold Sweat is a tense thriller with comedic undertones, Penumbra allows the brothers to experiment with atmosphere and paranoia – and the result is another solid effort from the Argentinian duo.

Christina Brondo injects the character of Marga with a strong sense of purpose and a business class hue. She’s fiercely to the point and her time is valuable – and she wants to make sure everyone knows it. As her situation becomes more troublesome, that fiery veneer gives way to a nasty temper and finally devolves into sheer panic.

As a man named Jorge, claiming he’s a realtor representing a wealthy client, convinces Marga to cancel her previous engagements to wait for a cash payout for her family’s apartment, Marga begins to grow suspicious when Jorge’s colleagues begin to show up with roles to play of their own. The building itself proves very important to the group as they continue to placate and manipulate Marga, and the pending eclipse taking form outside is somehow connected to the proceedings.

Once that connection is revealed and Marga’s peers discard their facades to show their true purpose, all she can do is bear witness to the ceremony. Because of her distaste for the disheveled locals of Buenos Aires and an incident with a homeless man outside the building, Marga has unwillingly provided her captives with a perfect alibi, allowing them to accomplish their mission without attracting any unwanted attention.

Fantastic Fest 2011Penumbra, meaning partial shadow (an obvious reference to the eclipse), comes right out and tells us that there is nothing satanic about this group and that they in no way represent the cult cliché we have come to know in various genre films throughout the years. By doing this, the Bogliano brothers promise something different and original, but instead the ending plays out in fairly typical fashion without being fully explained.

That would be fine if the film didn’t pause to tell the audience to raise their expectations by hinting that the film is not going in the direction they think it is. Without an original payoff, this scene, although fascinating, is unnecessary and opens the film up to unwanted criticism.

Still, Penumbra sits nicely beside films cut from the same cloth like Rosemary’s Baby and House of the Devil and represents another confident – if not fully realized – entry from the Boglianos, who are quickly becoming a genre powerhouse unto themselves.

Following its world premiere at Fantastic Fest earlier this week, Penumbra was picked up by IFC Midnight, and it was just announced that Synapse Films has just acquired the rights for three of Adrián García Bogliano’s fims: Room for Tourists, Watch ‘em Die, and the riveting I Will Not Die Alone.

3 out of 5

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Drew Tinnin