If the last name of Penumbra‘s co-directors– Bogliano– sounds familiar, it’s likely due to Adrián García Bogliano’s festival hit Cold Sweat, which was released earlier this year by Dark Sky films. Bogliano’s name has been on the radar of more and more horror fans since the U.S. release of Rooms for Tourists in 2006, and Cold Sweat‘s warm festival receptions helped get his name out there as the premiere horror filmmaker in Argentina. For Penumbra, he teamed up with his brother (and screenwriter) Ramiro García Bogliano for a film that takes a considerably different approach than Cold Sweat in creating tension, while keeping that film’s subtle political edge.
Marga (Cristina Brondo) is a real estate agent from Spain in Argentina on business, and when we meet her she is already having a tough day. Her sister is giving her grief, her appointment to show off an old family property is forty minutes late, and she has a very important meeting rapidly approaching. Frustrated, she finally heads into the apartment building and finds Jorge (Berta Muñiz) lurking near the door of the property, having somehow sneaked past her. She lets him in and shows him the apartment, which Jorge quickly decides is perfect for his client’s needs, and he offers Marga a huge sum of money to sell him the property immediately. “Immediately” meaning within the hour, with as little paperwork and fuss as possible. Marga agrees, despite knowing that it will cause her to miss her other meeting with a wealthy client, and her day begins to get much, much worse.
Penumbra is a seriously slow burn, a stark contrast to the sledgehammer style of Cold Sweat. The Bogliano brothers put Marga through the wringer by carefully building up a series of increasingly difficult (and sometimes very funny) obstacles to making this once-in-a-lifetime sale. Marga already draws enough attention to herself with her flashy dress in what appears to be a fairly run-down neighborhood, and she doesn’t help her situation any by looking down on the Argentinian locals. One of the few people she meets during the course of the day who helps her out is a kindly spinster who also originally hails from Spain, and wishes she could afford to return there.
Saying much else would spoil some of Penumbra‘s many little surprises; suffice to say that by the time the end credits roll, Penumbra feels like a much different film that it did in its opening frames. The Boglianos have followed up the success of Cold Sweat with something that has a similar tone and look, but a much more restrained style. If any horror fans were unconvinced that the Boglianos were a talent to watch out for, Penumbra may very well convince them otherwise.
MPI Home Video released Penumbra on DVD on 28 August 2012.