The term 'Penny Dreadful' arose in Britain in the 19th Century where the reading of literature was on the rise, and to fill this gap in the market publishers put out serialized stories for just one penny.
The name took off and soon tons of publications popped up, all coming under the same banner. Showtime and Sky Atlantic’s new show of the same name is not about the history of these stories, but it certainly has at least one thing in common with them and that is sensationalism.
Penned and produced by the writer of Skyfall, John Logan, Penny Dreadful also brings on board in an executive producer role, Sam Mendes who directed the aforementioned Bond smash. Now if the news of this duo working behind the scenes isn’t enough to pique your interest then how about the plot?
In Penny Dreadful, some of literature’s most famously terrifying characters including Doctor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and iconic figures from the novel Dracula become embroiled in Victorian London. The series weaves together these classic horror origin stories as the characters grapple with their monstrous alienation.
On first read this may sound slightly like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by way of Once Upon a Time. But if flashbacks to that Sean Connery movie are causing you concern, don’t worry. Below is the recently released trailer for the show which shows a very dark tale indeed.
Though not much is given away you do get a vague idea of what the show will be like. It has that haunting American Horror Story feel to it (especially with the weird looking zombie like creatures that can contort their body into bizarre shapes) and the characters from Horror literature do seem to mesh quite well into the story’s setting. This looks like it may be going for a more realistic approach, or as realistic as you can get with a cast that includes novel monster favorites. The promotional posters seem to be supporting this freaky tone. They give us a more sensual, yet scary, story to get our teeth into.
The icing on this mash up cake has got to be the cast that the show has assembled. With Josh Hartnett (30 Days of Night) as Ethan Chandler, Eva Green (300 – Rise of an Empire) as Vanessa Ives, Billie Piper (Doctor Who) as Brona Croft and Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights) as Sir Malcolm, it almost seems too good to be true. But what really surprised and delighted me was Rory Kinnear’s almost unrecognizable face appearing as Frankenstein’s monster. These are just a few of the talented actors and actresses filling this new show’s impressive roster.
There is a lot of competition in television shows at the moment with the bar being raised quite high by shows like Breaking Bad and Dexter (or at least the early seasons) blowing away viewers with their in-depth story lines and characters. Penny Dreadful certainly looks like it could fit the bill.
Penny Dreadful premieres on Sunday May 11 at 10 Eastern.