It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Cool it, folks. Keep calm. Don't let "The Penthouse" get out of control like "I, A Woman" did. Let's try to head off the vigilantes at the bend. This isn't an evil movie, and it's not an example of the pornography of violence, or at least not a very good example. What's more, it isn't deep and meaningful either, so don't think I'm going to devise some noble defense or anything.
"The Penthouse," quite simply, is a pretty good shocker. Shockers are standard fare in the movies and always have been, but successful ones are rare. It's a relief to find one that's made with skill and a certain amount of intelligence. "The Penthouse" isn't in the same class with "Psycho" (1960) but it's in the same school.
It's the first work of Peter Collinson, a 28-year-old British director who made it in slightly over three weeks and for less than $100,000. He also wrote the screenplay. When I interviewed him a couple of months ago, be said he was trying, purely and simply, to tell an exciting story. He did not believe in "message" movies, he said.
Since then, Paramount has moved, oh, so cleverly to exploit "The Penthouse" and make lots of bucks. Step One: A campaign of suggestive teaser ads ("If what happens in The Penthouse happened to you . . ."). This is to establish the movie as controversial and daring, and it was a big help when Ch. 5 refused to run the ads on TV. Step Two: A sanctimonious press release, supposedly written by Collinson in which he explains that the movie is really about the horror that lurks in the minds of men, and how when we discover our true inner selves we don't want to reveal them. Thus "The Penthouse" is really a movie with a serious message about self-discovery, etc.