Peter (David Schifter, Let Go and Let God, Bloody Ballet) and his wife Amanda (Vanessa Ore, Heaven Bound, Legend of the Oro Arrowhead) have just bought a new home, the penthouse apartment in an oceanfront building no less. One with a great view of all the sailboats and yachts in the island’s marinas.
Charles (Michael Paré, Battle Drone, Once Upon a Time in Deadwood) is a criminal who lives on one of those sailboats with his girlfriend Tess (Krista Grotte Saxon, Joe Vampire, A Nation’s Fire). Of course, this being a by the numbers thriller he beats her, and Amanda notices and becomes involved. When she disappears Charles becomes convinced they know he killed her and sets out to destroy them.
Director Massimiliano Cerchi recently made the entertaining horror on a plane film Mayday. And under his Alvaro Passeri pseudonym, he’s directed and/or had a hand in some entertaining and cult Italian films such as Plankton and Atlantis Interceptors. So why he and writer/star David Schifter decided to make a bottom-of-the-barrel variation on Rear Window is beyond me.
For the first half-hour, The Penthouse is nothing but incredibly cringy dialogue. Peter and Amanda are supposed to be a lovable, cute rich couple. They come off as creepy voyeurs. Amanda is even dumb enough to say she recognized Tess from watching her on the boat. Not that Peter is much brighter, he may be a successful businessman but after a bogus arrest, he sits and chats with Detective Martinez (Nicholas Turturro, Angels Fallen, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2) without a lawyer.
Charles is supposed to be some dangerous criminal who has Tess and his reluctant assistant scared of him. Unfortunately he looks and acts like a meth addict who’s going to get his ass kicked by the first guy he pisses off. I suppose it’s good that Paré has more than a cameo here, but he doesn’t put any effort into the role at all. Maybe he’s saving himself for Streets of Fire 2 and Eddie and the Cruisers 3.
But the biggest problem with The Penthouse is that nothing really happens. If you’re going to drive a thriller with dialogue those words have to be razor sharp. And the acting has to match. Unfortunately neither of them are. As I mentioned Paré is a major disappointment, and Ore looks like she’s sleepwalking through the film as well. Some of the faces Schifter makes during the climactic showdown are quite funny though.
There’s also no suspense. We know Charles is guilty and Peter and Amanda are innocent the whole time. There’s never even an attempt to cast doubts or make us question what we saw. And when he finally does go after the couple there’s nothing in Charles’ methods we haven’t seen a million times before, and frequently done much better. Maybe the filmmakers should have used some of The Penthouse’s alleged $3,000,000 budget on a complete rewrite of the script. Judging by what we see on the screen they had about $2,500,000 to spare.
I won’t spoil the ending, but the final confrontation is so lame I could almost see the loser giving a Willie E. Coyote style wave bye-bye before they meet their fate. If only The Penthouse had been as entertaining as a Roadrunner cartoon.
Lionsgate will release The Penthouse on DVD and VOD on April 13th. You can check their Facebook page for details.