For the first thirty seconds or so of the full trailer for Showtime’s Penny Dreadful (seen above), you won’t be able to tell much difference between it and the numerous teasers and promos that have come before it. Indeed, the clip makes use of a great deal of the same footage previously seen in other preview spots in its establishing moments; Eva Green’s brief exchange with Josh Hartnett sets the tone of the piece, drawing us into an alternate vision of Victorian London stalked by all manner of creatures of the night.
But once we get beyond that opening conversation, the sound turns down, the dialogue all but vanishes until the final unnerving beat, and we’re treated to a cavalcade of images engineered to show off Penny Dreadful‘s potential for creepiness. Admittedly, some of the shots in this procession have cropped up before – the amazing bendable man, for example – but the vast majority of them are brand new, and they tilt either toward being outright freaky or just plain kinky.
By now, you may be familiar with the basic conceit here: imagine a world where characters of classic horror fiction – Dracula, Victor Frankenstein (as well as his legendary creation), Dorian Grey – all actually exist, living in isolation from society by virtue of their monstrous qualities and pursuits. That’s Penny Dreadful in a nutshell, though in between the supernatural players we have human cast members thrown in the mix as well – Vanessa Ives (Green), Ethan Chandler (Hartnett), and Sir Malcom (Timothy Dalton).
What roles they each serve within Penny Dreadful‘s plot exactly isn’t entirely clear, but by now it’s fairly obvious that they’re all invested in the demimonde Green refers to in her introductory spiel. Likely enough, they’re all out to track down the demons lurking in the shadows, ostensibly to combat them for the greater good – or perhaps for more personal reasons. Regardless, they’ve got their work cut out for them; Frankenstein’s hard at work stitching together corpses, while Dracula’s out for blood.
As much as this trailer throws back the curtain on the sinister things skulking about under shroud of darkness, there’s still a sense of mystery hanging over what the whole thing is really about. What we do know is that Penny Dreadful comes courtesy of showrunner John Logan and executive producer Sam Mendes, who teamed up in 2012 and gave us Skyfall; a gruesome blend of horror archetypes might not be a project we expect from either of them, but thus far Penny Dreadful looks to play to their strengths.
If the show’s apparent top-down approach to plotting – beginning with the idea of mashing up numerous literary works into one entity – lends itself to well-drawn characters, and if they nail the proper tone for the material, then Penny Dreadful could end up being one of 2014’s more interesting new shows. We’ll see if they hit the mark come May.
Penny Dreadful premieres on Showtime on May 11th, 2014.