ByMatt Carter, writer at
If the zombie apocalypse kicks off you'll find me in the Winchester. @moremattcarter
Matt Carter

Penny Dreadful, Showtime's spooky new show, is going to be one of the TV events of 2014. Following the success of The Walking Dead and American Horror Story, Penny Dreadful is looking to continue the resurgence in quality horror output on the small screen.

But what is Penny Dreadful? Who's in it and what's it all about?

I'm glad you asked. From the all-star cast to the creepy creatures, here's everything you need to know about Showtime's creep-fest, Penny Dreadful.

Read on, if you dare!

Here Comes the History Part

"Penny dreadfuls" were a type of popular British fiction published in the late 19th century. They got their name because they cost a penny to buy and their content was often considered to be 'dreadful' due to its low-brow, pulpy content and the fact that many people were afraid it would corrupt the young minds that regularly read them. Essentially, they were the prototype for the comic book and, in fact, over time, penny dreadfuls slowly evolved into the first British comic magazines.

Fun Fact: Although controversial, penny dreadfuls greatly improved literacy rates among working class adolescents.

Anybody I Know?

Some of literary history's most macabre characters could be found on the pages of the penny dreadfuls and the TV show will pay particular attention to Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein's monster, Dorian Gray, and Count Dracula.

Fun Fact: Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, first appeared in a Penny Dreadful issue, 'The String of Pearls', in 1846.

Star Power

The acting talent involved in Penny Dreadful is pretty special. The show stars (300: Rise of an Empire) as Vanessa, an enigmatic woman who will prove herself to be the heroine of the series. Nearly-forgotten man, , has returned from his self-imposed acting exile to play Ethan Chandler, a charming man of action and daring who isn't afraid of violence. Joining these two bright young things are Doctor Who alum , who'll play Irish immigrant Brona Croft, , who's been cast as Dorian Gray and former James Bond, , who's been lined up to play African explorer Sir Malcolm.

Talent Behind the Camera

Penny Dreadful also boasts some of the biggest and brightest writers/directors/producers in the business. Skyfall and Gladiator scribe, , has penned all eight episodes and teams up once more with , who's taken on executive producer duties. The first two episodes will also be directed by The Impossible helmer . He was responsible for lensing the incredibly creepy The Orphanage, so we are in for a terrifying treat.

See Also: All the news and rumors about the Penny Dreadful TV series

It's Not Just About the Monsters

Like all good creature features, the monsters lurking in the shadows are only half the story. Penny Dreadful also promises to be an allegory for alienation from society. I'll let writer Logan take up the slack:

I started thinking about themes and why almost 200 years after [Mary Shelley's Frankenstein] was written, we're still reading Frankenstein. I think it's because the monsters break my heart. Growing up as a gay man before it was socially acceptable, I knew what it was to feel different, alienated and not like everyone else.

Let's All Go Down to London Town

Penny Dreadful is set in 1891 London, but the decision to base it in the foggy capital was as much for philosophical reason as its spooky aesthetic. Here's Logan once more:

I chose to set the show [in 1891] not because it would be cool visually but because the Victorian era reminds me of right now. They were on the cusp of the modern world … grappling with the very elemental question of what it means to be human.

Fun Fact: While it might look like London, feel like London and sound like London, it's not London. Penny Dreadful was filmed entirely on location in Dublin, due to the country's generous tax breaks.

Macabre Marketing

The Penny Dreadful marketing campaign has slowly started building toward the show's premiere on May 11th. A couple of tantalizing teasers have offered glimpses of demonic possession and monsters lurking in the shadows, while the final teaser trailer proved that some things really do go bump in the night.

You can check out the trailer below (and then my excellent Penny Dreadful trailer breakdown!)


Penny Dreadful premieres May 11th on Showtime.

Will you be checking out Penny Dreadful? Hit me up in the comments or over on Twitter.



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