Penumbra starts off on a really interesting character, spends about five minutes on her, then switches over to one-note harpy Marga (Cristina Brondo) with whom we are stuck for the rest of the film. Marga's mean, to say the least. She's arrogant, selfish, greedy, prejudiced, petulant, and impatient. She's also beautiful, cunning, and a successful business woman. However her looks, brains and expertise do her no good on one terrible day in Buenos Aires.
The Type-A is forced to take a day off from her high-gear career to run a familial errand she dreads — namely, renting out a decaying apartment she inherited. Adding insult to injury, the frustrated lady's going to have to miss a tryst with her married lover. It seems the whole city is on pause as residents wait to view a rare solar eclipse… with star-gazers getting in her way left and right, Marga's already thin patience is stretched to the splitering point when a potential renter stands her up. But that doesn't mean the apartment won't be occupied very, very soon.
There are elements of The Tenant, Saw 2, House of the Devil, and the recent 11-11-11 in this supernatural suspenser, but those connections are too far-reaching to really hang any kind of hopes on. As Marga finds herself slowly disarmed by the mysterious members of an astral cult, most viewers will just find things slow. But Penumbra is one of those monotonous movies which manages to miraculously pick up and find a twist just when it seems hopelessly to the point of no return.
The (lack of) action takes place basically in one location, and the film is quite talky (there's more than one over-long sequence showing edgy Marga on the phone standing, sitting, or pacing, and in which both sides of the conversation are heard in their entirety). I will say, I thought the acting was very good — Brondo makes Marga bearable. She's watchable. Camila Bordonaba and Berta Muñiz as Victoria and Jorge, the two most insidious members of the cult, make for good foils, while character actor Arnaldo André steals the show as a guileful homeless man.
When it finally comes time for the human sacrifice, it's good 'n gory. Whether it's worth the wait is debatable. Personally, I was on the verge of hitting the fast forward button on my remote more than once — but when I didn't, I was rewarded. Bearing in mind that the title of the film translates to "shadowy, indefinite, or marginal" I leave it up to you to decided whether or not patience is one of your virtues.
Penumbra is currently available via VOD on a variety of platforms.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson