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by Caress Thirus

Only one genre is as hot as the undead thrillers abundant in Hollywood today, and that is the psychological thriller.

Penitence is a short film by Chris Emmons that plays with the mind and makes the heart jump as the story unfolds. Nick awakens in a cabin covered with bruises and scars. He appears confused and tries to put the pieces of his life together, but when he opens his eyes, he finds himself in a different place. Something strange is going on, and Nick can’t seem to put his finger on what it is. He jumps back-and-forth through time and circumstances, trying to figure out when this madness began and what exactly is going on. The pieces of the puzzle come together slowly, until the shocking discovery finally comes to the surface at the end.

Though it has an interesting story, Penitence is a little hard to hold onto since the premise is so vague. When viewers sit down to watch the movie, they have no previous knowledge about Nick’s situation, and the twists and turns, though important, are just plain confusing. The film differs from Inception, for instance, in that the viewer has nothing to hold onto in order to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The film really makes no sense until the very end.

Not to say that this is not an effective way of telling a story, but if a filmmaker is going to leave the audience hanging on until the very end, it’s harder to do so with a low budget. If the film had been more beautiful cinematographically, or had better sound mixing (though the sound mixing is pretty cool, for what it’s worth), audiences would more than likely enjoy the film a little bit more. The flashback scene at the end is very over-exposed and so quiet that it’s almost a hassle to watch.

Penitence mixes reality and fantasy, ecstasy and depression in non-linear order. It’s confusing, but not as intriguing as it aims to be. For the first ten minutes or so, random scenes and different characters appear and disappear, random occurrences happen, and the camera focuses on seemingly unimportant objects in an attempt to add some reasoning to the madness. Fortunately, the film is only fifteen minutes, and does not feel like a complete waste of time to watch. Penitence isn’t a bad movie, it just could have been better.

Most information is derived from IMDB's daily news, the Chicago dailies (Tribune and Sun Times), Entertainment Weekly,, various sources as listed, and by just paying attention.

Caress Thirus is a film lover from Chicago, IL. A recent graduate of Roosevelt University, she enjoys indie films, foreign films, and clever psychological thrillers.

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