While on the run from the law, Frank and his stripper girlfriend, Penelope, find themselves miles from civilization while traveling along a deserted stretch of dirt road. As darkness falls, they come upon a small motel and diner and decide to rest for the night. The next day, after robbing the diner, they suddenly become immersed in a hellish nightmare, When the proprietor of the motel and diner, Chisos, a psychotic, cannibalistic Bible thumper along with his sadistic family, take Frank and Penelope on a life and death journey, where escape is just a heart-pounding breath away. It soon becomes apparent that they are not the first to endure this. But these two will either get out together or “go out” together.
Written and directed by Sean Patrick Flanery and produced by Scott Dolezal, Frank and Penelope stars the talents of Kevin Dillon, Billy Budinich, Caylee Cowan, Donna D’Errico, Johnathon Schaech, and “Insidious” scream queen Lin Shaye. This film is certainly a strange beast; like the spawn of various titles like The Hills have Eyes coupled with Apostle bred with Natural Born Killers. It’s entirely its own thing though—a fusion of films and features that somehow come together to create a cinematic chimera of chaos and comedy.
The soundtrack is a blend of your least favourite Xtian church melodies intertwined with 60s and 70s classics. This, coupled again with a good score, makes for an entertaining soundscape that runs the film’s entirety. Visually, it’s almost a parody of that middle-of-nowhere Podunk Americana with clever slices of suburbia and slum at the start of the film; the latter half filmed in entirely in cousin-fucking country. The film is also very heavily sexualized, especially with the female characters being that stereotypical American ideal and the men being the greasy, gross incel-types—with the exceptions being our male protagonist and antagonist that play the Ying and Yang of western desirable masculinity.
The film does the right thing by focusing on the story and the bizarre characters rather than trying to slot itself into a single genre. It’s a strange tale made stranger by the intentional overacting—oftentimes making the characters caricatures rather than serious personas. This was absolutely one part that did have me a tad confused; were all of the characters meant to be purposefully overboard or was the writing simply comical? It was hard to tell if a lot was meant to be tongue-in-cheek or if this was meant to parody films that take themselves too seriously with overdone personas. Either way, it remained enjoyable and I found myself both enthralled and entertained; never bored for a minute.
Penelope herself is the epitome of this conundrum, being equally the wisest of all the cast yet at the same time the most stereotypical, typecast dumb-blonde trope that has ever existed. I’m still unsure as to whether she was portraying the character perfectly or doing a terrible job of it. I’m going to go with the former as I choose to believe that she managed to get so into character that she gave an award-winning performance as one of the most perfect idiot-savants to have ever graced the silver screen. That, or she simply had fun really getting into and playing with a character so bizarrely written that it somehow worked in her favour. She was so phenomenally tropey that it had to be intentional and I refuse to accept any other explanation. Loved her in every scene. It was like Caylee Cowen was channelling every genre stereotype to forge the perfect iteration of the blonde sex symbol that was a combined Final Girl, Sacrificial Stripper, Wholesome Hero, and Sex Symbol. Madness manifested in the cutest of ways.
We’re also privy to an originally misleading and twisting conclusion that I did not see coming, regular tropes being flipped on their heads, whacky mysticism, and an overall satisfying finish that left me with an ear-to-ear grin…hard to ask for more. Overall, the film was a lot more fun than I was expecting to have. Frank and Penelope sounds like something rather generic; an everyday standard, run-of-the-mill random movie. It was so much more. Great for a party watch or something to unwind to on a Friday night as I did. It even promises a sequel, but we’ll see how well received the first film is after it releases on June third. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. The trailer, director’s statement, and poster artwork can be found below.
I know that some dreams have more nutritional value than food and that every one that is not acted on will eventually morph into regret. And, while I have had opportunities to direct in the past, none came with the old school auteur style carte blanche that producer Scott Dolezal was offering… to truly write without reins and shoot without guidelines. That phone call was one of the most wonderful and creative opportunities to have ever befallen me. And it’s not lost on me that these completely unbridled opportunities are unicorns in today’s Hollywood… but I have now seen that one-horned fucker up close, and I want a herd.” -Director Sean Patrick Flanery
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.