As I remarked in my Honest review, I watched this as a result of a challenge from a friend. I had rather innocently assumed that Honest would be worse, on the basis that few films could be more inept than that one. Unfortunately I had not counted on Penetration Angst being one of those few films. Did I, just a few months ago, complain that we Brits have not contributed enough to the world of bad cinema? Was I really that ignorant? In those days life was simpler. Life was brighter. The sun shone, birds sang, I thought nothing would ever match the rarefied awfulness of Freddy Got Fingered. Even Dirty Love (yes, yes, a review is coming) failed to dent my iron-clad belief that nothing on the face of planet could even come within spitting distance of that celluloid monster.
And here I now sit, whimpering as my mind tries to comprehend the incomprehensible; tries to understand something that repulses all attempts to rationalise it away. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, do not watch this film for it will eat your very soul. Should you find it in a DVD store, you have my blessing to burn down the entire building, for it is surely contaminated with the darkest evil.
(For the record, Freddy Got Fingered is still the worse film – but by a smaller margin than I ever thought possible)
What can you say about a film when just about the most sympathetic person in it is someone who cheats on his wife with hookers and wants to videotape it? Penetration Angst is filled from wall to wall with immoral idiots, played by a bunch of rank amateurs who could give the morons in Blood Feast a run for their money. The script looks like it never got a second draft, the occasional dubbing rivals Double Agent 73, I wouldn’t trust the director of photography to change a light bulb and with this single film producer-director-writer Wolfgang Buld puts in an aggressively powerful bid to be the most incompetent film maker on the planet.
What makes Penetration Angst such a nightmare to get through is the script. Everything else about it, such as the criminal acting, could be fairly entertaining. I’m afraid, however, that the dialogue and plot combine to drown out any chance of enjoyment. I’m not joking when I say that at certain times during the film I caught myself whimpering ‘No. No more. Stop. Please stop.’ When even I’m doing that, clearly something is going outrageously wrong. I am not a person who is going to criticise a film for its low budget. If I did, I wouldn’t be an old-school Doctor Who fan. So what if the film’s been shot on DV, or if the special effects are generally inept? But really, it should not cost a great deal to get a decent script. And if you can’t do that, you shouldn’t make the bloody thing in the first place.
I should warn you that the plot of Penetration Angst is probably NSFW, due to its emphasis on sexuality. I’m therefore putting the rest of the review behind an LJ-cut.
The plot concerns a young lady in the south of England, Helen (played by Fiona Horsey). One night her boyfriend rapes her in a car – the first time she’s had any sexual experience – and as he comes he disappears. What’s happened is that Helen’s vagina has eaten him. What’s worse for Helen is that now her vagina’s been woken up it won’t stop suffering from hunger pangs, with the result that she flees to London to become a prostitute and consume her clients. Meanwhile a young man called Dennis (Paul Conway), who’s in love with Helen, trails after her, getting involved in his own sordid affairs that include robbing banks (positively the most conventional moment of the film) and accidentally having sex with the wrong Siamese twin.
This appears all tailor-made for an exploitation film. It doesn’t quite work out like that. You see literally nothing during the first rape scene, not a whole lot more during the second and the fourth rape scene isn’t even on screen.
With that sentence, you’ll probably be forming a number of suspicions about this film. Some of them will be right. Some of them will be wrong. I’ll say this for Penetration Angst - at no point during the film will you be able to successfully predict what’s coming next. But that’s probably because you’re sane and have some vague ideas about what makes a good story and what doesn’t. Wolfgang Buld does not have that advantage.
So, then. Helen starts her journey in the film at the pub, when she is hit on by a little weed, Dennis. She then drives off in a car with Jack, her boyfriend, and they stop somewhere to make out – Dennis sees this, implying that he’s as fast on his bike as they in the car. Jack turns nasty, rapes Helen and disappears, leaving his clothes behind. Helen’s a touch freaked out by this. She goes home to take a shower. This is the first (but by no means last) nudity scene, although if memory serves we never see anyone going full frontal. I’m certainly not going back to find out, thank you. Her pervert wheelchair-bound stepfather is watching her through the keyhole. Helen goes to the doctor with her problem, who promptly drugs and rapes her. When she wakes up, used condom between her legs, Helen finds the doctor’s clothing on the floor. Leaving, she runs into Dennis, who is concerned by the length of time she’s been in the clinic.
This would of course imply that Dennis saw her going into the clinic and has been patiently waiting for her to come out. Remember that.
Helen weeps on her bed and talks to her soft toy rabbit, because apparently that will make us feel more sympathetic towards her. Look how innocent she is! She’s rather painfully interrupted in her distress by the new stomach cramps that occur when she hasn’t been eating enough men. She goes downstairs to see if frankfurters will satisfy the craving and is caught by her stepfather, who tries to make a move on her and gets walloped around the head with a frying pan. Helen runs away to the nearest train station – where she meets Dennis again. It’s almost dawn, and since this is the third time they’ve ‘accidentally’ bumped into each other, I think it’s now confirmed that Dennis is the kind of admirer more usually known as a ‘stalker’. Helen manages to lose him and runs off to London to kill people. If the frequency of the cramps are anything to go by, I’d think she’s a two-a-day woman. You’d have thought people would start noticing the disappearances after six months, but apparently not.
By the way, don’t blame me for seeing Helen as a murderer. True, she cries when she sees a video of one of her victims playing with his child, but aside from that it’s business as usual. Buld believes that character development should be limited to one scene alone, in the most obvious possible way, and then we can safely forget all about it. Indeed, that’s almost the only development Helen ever gets until the end of the movie. We spend half the film with her, yet the only things we learn about her are that it sucks to have a carnivorous vagina and that she’d rather not eat the people she likes. She occasionally gets flashbacks to being very young, walking in on her mother enjoying a S-and-M session. Amusingly the girl playing young Helen does not react at all - not even when she accidentally pushes her mother’s lover down the stairs, breaking his neck. It makes her look like an utter psychopath, incapable of feeling any type of emotion.
It turns out at the very end of the film that the lover was Helen’s stepfather, and that was the accident that put him in a wheelchair – this is the first time that Helen’s remembered the incident in her entirety and dialogue indicates that she had previously taken her stepfather to be a rapist. It is inferred that this is what put her off sex and now that Dennis has arrived back in her life she suddenly remembers everything, wants to have sex with him (because it’s True Luv!) and her vagina shuts up.
Quite frankly, when the couple are interrupted by someone pointing a shotgun at them it comes as a relief.
I had wondered whilst watching the film if they were going to end up making this point. We only see Helen having sex with people who are either forcing themselves on her or who shouldn’t be with her anyway (for example, because they’re married), and the film might be making the point that a woman’s body is her own and she should have the right to choose. All the people she has sex with are ‘punished’ as thoroughly as anyone having sex in a slasher film. However the resolution is chronically flawed, partly because it comes out of nowhere; we’ve never seen any indication that Helen has been attracted to Dennis or has even thought about him once during their seven months apart. Secondly, her vagina constantly calls out ‘Feed me!’ If the entire point is that Helen doesn’t want to have sex and that her case of vagina dentata is a physical manifestation of her fear of sex, why does her body require her to have sex with as many men as possible? Thirdly, we’ve seen Helen calmly kill man after man after man. If Penetration Angst is supposed to be all about women’s rights and the triumph of Helen over a misogynistic society that only sees women as sex engines, why is she so unlikeable?
None of the few other women we see are likeable either. There’s a psychopathic bank robber called Pinky. One of the Siamese twins will have sex with anyone and enjoys routinely humiliating her sister. The other, whom Dennis falls in love with, seems to be the most well-adjusted person in the whole mess, which is surprising since she is permanently attached to a hot contender for Most Irritating Cast Member. However due to an accident Dennis ends up having anal sex with the wrong one, leading to much laughter from nasty sister and much distress from nice sister. Dennis then decides that the twins need to be separated and attempts to do so with an electric breadknife. He accidentally slashes nasty sister’s throat, which puts an even larger damper on the relationship, and goes on the run. Whereupon nice sister, whenever we see her, turns psychotic. Oh well. It was nice to have one person in the film who didn’t make me want to slit my wrists, if only for a short while.
(It says a lot about the film that the scene is meant to be one of the most ‘disturbing’ highlights but my reaction was just one of laughter.)
Perhaps we are supposed to like Helen simply because the men are worse. You might be wondering when we’re going to be meeting a man who does not have severe psychiatric problems. If so, you have more enthusiasm for this beastly little film than I was able to dredge up, but let me give you an answer – we won’t. We meet rapists and stalkers and fathers who will have sex with their son’s bride on their wedding night, but we won’t be meeting anyone we can like or even feel indifferent to. Once Helen gets tied up by a client and is saved by a policeman who falls in love with her. For a couple of scenes it goes splendidly, until we see the policeman sniffing the knickers she was wearing at the time a month after the event and he pressurises her into marriage. Then when he’s taken hostage by a female armed robber, all he has on his mind is how splendid her crotch must be.
Whilst for the first half of the film Dennis’s side of the story is rather more sedate and not as ‘disturbing’ as Helen’s, I found it much easier to watch Helen’s scenes. This is because Dennis is brilliantly written as a chronic bore, his every line having the vitality of a corpse. Even after he kills someone he’s no more interesting or changed in any way. His scenes with the Siamese twins are agonisingly painful to watch because he acts as a malignant black hole, sucking up all the viewer’s attention. Admittedly this is not just the fault of the scriptwriter. A large share of the blame must go to the actor, Paul Conway, who is hands down the worst actor in the entire film. It’s honestly as if they got the first young man they found at the nearest bus shelter for the role; Conway does try to act, but it’s like putting a moped engine into a F1 car. He just hasn’t got the capacity to show any emotion convincingly.
The one tiny saving grace of Conway’s entire performance comes when he goes on the run after accidentally killing someone. He decides, in an amazingly bad move, to stay in London (you know, the city in which the crime took place) and disguises himself with a false moustache that is as convincing as Baldrick’s dead slug in Blackadder Goes Forth. I defy anyone to watch this film and not collapse into giggles at the sight of it. But when the best part of your film comes courtesy of a single wardrobe prop, what does that say about the rest of it?
And for every small token of sustenance Wolfgang Buld gives the audience with one hand, he takes away a pound of flesh with the other. I did say above that we never see anyone going full frontal. This is true. However it is incumbent upon me to warn you all that we see the tip of Dennis’s sunburnt penis. Fortunately it is a very bad model, but taking relief in that fact is rather like taking relief in the fact that the guillotine works quickly, especially since Buld shows Little Dennis to us REPEATEDLY.
I’ll leave you to discover the bondage death scene for yourself. My advice is to arm yourself with a bottle of vodka.
I tell you, this ridiculous, unpleasant, catastrophic little film is the most tragic thing to have gone into my DVD drive for about two and a half years. Wolfgang Buld is a man who can make even atheists pray to God that he never, never, never touches another film camera ever again. It’s so bad that a public showing would be picketed by human rights activists as an act of torture. The mere thought that Buld, Horsey and Conway have together done not one, not two, but three films together fills me with unspeakable, agonising dread. You may expect reviews of the other two some time after the sun has expanded far enough to destroy the Earth, because there’s no way that I’ll be watching them that soon. If Penetration Angst proves one thing, it’s that even I have limits.