Since the ending of American Horror Story Coven, as a lover of horror and the supernatural, I have been looking for a new tv series to satisfy my desire to be scared. This desire was satisfied in the seductively spooky Penny Dreadful, which my lovely friend Alex - who writes film and television reviews for Best For Film and who you should definitely check out here - invited me to the premier of last Monday. Set in the 1890s, not only does it quench my thirst for the supernatural, but is also set in my favourite historical period. As mentioned in my previous post about the Fashion Museum in Bath, the gothic styling of the 19th century is one of my favourite fashion periods. Thus I was super excited to see this collision of two of my favourite things in a new television series.
Set in the suitably gothic St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, the gothic scene was set with a macabre horse drawn carriage eagerly awaiting guests arrival. Although the venues grand gothic architecture definitely made a huge impact, two other factors made me even more excited about entering the building. Firstly, my Step-Dad, who is a sound engineer, fitted the sound equipment for the 'Most Haunted Live' episode filmed at this hotel meaning that it was probably haunted, and secondly, this hotel was were 'Wannabe' by the Spice Girls was filmed- equally as exciting! The screening itself was held in the Hansom Hall, a high ceilinged, exposed brick wall lined room- a perfect setting for such a series.
Not realising that it was the premier of the series, red carpet included, I probably didn't dress as fabulously as I should have.
Penny Dreadful is not as overtly scary in the generic 'horror' genre manner. It is instead a psychological thriller, and combines some of gothic literatures' iconic characters including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Dracula. In fact, despite being set in Victorian London, Penny Dreadful was filmed in the author of 'Dracula' Bram Stoker's home town of Dublin. Judging by the first episode alone, it appears that the series weaves together the traditional characters of the horror genre with intelligent plots and new characters - including Bond Girl Eva Green's character Vanessa Ives and Timothy Dalton's Sir Malcom - to create a supernatural based series unlike any other. Without the generic gore elements or predictable jumpy moments, Penny Dreadful uses evocative suspense to leave you with shivers up your spine and a desire to tune in to the next episode.
After the 45 minute first episode, the cast took part in a Q&A session where we got to hear from 4 of the main characters - the aforementioned Timothy Dalton who plays Sir Malcom, Josh Hartnett whose character of Ethan Chandler is the token American of the series, Billie Piper who plays a prostitute - again, but this time one tackling Victorian Londoners whilst battling an illness, and Harry Treadaway who plays Dr. Victor. Eva Green unfortunately had to leave for Paris - of course! - so was unable to attend the Q&A, much to my disappointment. It was interesting to see from the actors points of view how it was to film a supernatural thriller set in the 1890s. Following on from the Q&A was a drinks reception, where I got my fortune read. Whether you believe in fortune telling or not, I advise everyone to try it at least once, as mine was incredibly accurate and the fortune teller knew personal things about me that you could not have guessed. Definitely a great experience, thanks so much Alex for the invite!
My main interest in the series was, naturally, the costuming. Set in my favourite historical fashion period, I was eager to see how the costume designer would create the gothic attire without it appearing too 'costume-like' and overly theatrical. Key Costumer, Karen Rigg, whose previous works include Vampire film 'Byzanthium' and fellow period thriller 'Ripper Street', and Assistant Costume Designer Giovanni Lipari who has 15th century Italian crime thriller 'The Borgais' on their CV, definitely delivered on the costuming on Penny Dreadful. Costume designer Gabriella Pescucci deserves honourable mentioning who, where possible, used vintage clothing to keep the authenticity of the costuming. She is said to have also studied old Penny Dreadful comic's as inspiration. Very dark and macabre, the colour palette is suitably dark, with heavy fabrics, high necks and appropriately Victorian hemlines for Vanessa Ives, and three piece suits in tweeds and wool for the gentlemen. The costuming duo have ensured that the outfits are within the characters means, not ostentatious or obviously expensive, but visually impactful and fitting for each characters personality alongside their position of society. Eva Green was perfectly cast for mysterious Vanessa Ives, as she is subtly sexy and surprisingly suits the victorian attire.
Penny Dreadful starts on Sky Atlantic tonight - Tuesday 20th May - and continues every Tuesday for 8 weeks. You can watch the trailer here.