November 24

Review – Porno (2019)

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Director: Keola Racela

Starring: Robbie Tann, Katelyn Pearce, Evan Daves, Larry Saperstein , Jillian Mueller, Glen Stott

Run Time: 98mins

Given its brazen title, retro poster and its plot focused on a seductive succubus (who is nearly always naked) menacing a group of repressed teens, you feel you know exactly what you are going to get. A highly 80s influenced splatter horror-comedy aimed at the midnight movie crowd. And Keola Racela's patchy debut feature delivers that, but only up to a point.

The group of teens in question are Abe (Evan Davies), Todd (Larry Saperstein), Chaz (Jillian Mueller) and Ricky (Glenn Stott) who all work at the same cinema and, alongside projectionist “Heavy Metal” Jeff (Robbie Tann) unwittingly unleash a demon named Lillith (Katelyn Pearce) after watching an old film from the cinemas archives.

Before that, though, we get a bit of character development as we get to know our group. Unfortunately, there is not a lot to them: Abe and Todd are a pair of horndog nerds, Ricky (initially anyway) is a bland jock, and Chaz is essentially your standard acerbic goth. That said, Mueller gives the role more personality. Probably most interesting is “Heavy Metal” Jeff who seems to be in a permanent state of anger (partly because his been mislabelled as a metalhead when he is actually a straight-edger) and oscillates between being the movies most entertaining character and its most irritating.

One thing that makes the character a bit different is they are all Christian and unlike in a lot of horror this is presented in a sympathetic non-mocking light. Or it is mostly anyway. As the film can go from being quite earnest about faith one minute to relatively sneering the next.  This one of several confused elements on display.

Another would be the tone of the film that right until quite near end can’t quite nail what it wants horror-to-comedy ratio to be. This confusion lead to a frustrating viewing experience as it leads to there being both fewer scares and fewer laughs than you would have hoped for.  

Also, despite the amount of gore and nudity on display, there is an odd prudish streak running through the film. There is a sense it wants to have its cake and eat it too. Both revelling in its own tawdry trashy nature and simultaneously telling viewers off for wanting to consume such filth. Plus, for a film that features exploding testicles, a sliced-off penis and a sex demon, it’s not half dull at times. Particularly in the draggy second act where we get way too much in the way of clichéd teen melodrama.

For all that, there are some real strengths here too. The film-within-a-film which introduces Lilith being a good example. It is a pitch-perfect homage to the psychedelic occult horror of the late 60s/early 70s (imagine somewhere between Kenneth Anger and Jess Franco). Also, there is a pleasing retro VHS vibe to the whole thing aided by its early 90s setting and the practical effects are strong throughout.

Finally, when in the last act the movie does lean into its own trashiness and goes full “Demons” on us, it is definitely at its strongest, providing both the best laughs and the best gore moments. The only downside to this is it makes it even more frustrating: Racela decided not to go more full-throttle earlier in proceedings.

Overall: A sporadically entertaining but ultimately muddled affair. Never quite scary enough or funny enough to be truly satisfying. However, “Porno” is not without its gory charms, and there is enough in the way of standout moments to suggest Racela could be a talent to watch in the future.

5/10

"Porno" will be available on Shudder now


Tags

80s, Bill Phillips, Christianty, Demons, Evan Daves, Glenn Stott, gore, Horror Comedy, Jillian Mueller, Katelyn Pearce, Keola Racela, Larry Saperstein, Occult, Porno, Robbie Tann, Sex demon


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