Porno

Porno

2020, R, 98 min. Directed by Keola Racela. Starring Evan Daves, Jillian Mueller, Larry Saperstein, Glenn Stott, Robbie Tan, Katelyn Pearce, Bill Phillips, Peter Reznikoff.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., April 10, 2020

Under the great list of sneaking suspicions in this world (life is an illusion, we're being lied to about the JFK assassination, the color of the dress was solely down to your monitor settings and image interference) the biggest may be that teenage Christians are constantly, utterly DTF. In fact, the more evangelical they are, the more "and one time, as Jesus Camp," they are.

That's the polar opposite of the kids in horror-sex-comedy Porno. They're the definitive good kids, working at a Christian-run movie theatre. It's 1992, and if they're well-behaved then on a Friday night they get to pick a movie to watch (Encino Man or A League of Their Own - oo, choices, choices). Instead, after a bizarre old man reveals a previously covered-up door, they find an old print in a secret basement. Of course that's what they'll put on, but this is a cinematic grimoire that summons a succubus (Pearce). That would seem to be a dark blessing for these repressed true believers - goth-in-training Chaz (Mueller), wannabe pervs Abe (Daves) and Todd (Saperstein), and the clearly closeted football star Ricky (Stott). Unfortunately for the kids, they're so painfully naive that they think the psycho-sexual psychedelic sacrifice they see on the screen is a regular stag flick. So, since they can't tell Kenneth Anger from Joanna Angel, they're in for a gruesome time as the evil entity manipulates their desires and gets their rocks off - very literally, very bloodily.

There's a lot in common here with Sequence Break, Graham Skipper's shameless love letter to David Cronenberg's Videodrome - but that has so much more heart, and such better source material on which to riff. Instead, Porno is kind of a schlocky homage to Lamberto Bava's Demons, the ultimate and original story of a bunch of schmoes locked in a cinema with a malevolent print. It desperately wants to be up there with other teen-apocalypse horror-comedies, like Todd and the Book of Pure Evil and Deathgasm, but it doesn't have the bubbly fun or quirky humor of either. It does, however, have some pretty entertaining gross-out gore moments, built around close-up genital mutilation, that will either have you laugh-cringing or gagging.

Possibly the conceit is to blame. The whole idea is that these good Christian kids can't tell an occult ritual caught on celluloid from a skin flick, so they don't realize until it's too late that they're on the verge of opening the doors to Hell. This means they're trailing far behind the audience in knowing what's going on, and it's hard to empathize with horror protagonists when they're clearly set up to die. There's also something weirdly flat about the delivery, and a slow pace buoyed up on (and burdened down by) fake jump scares. Points, therefore, to Robbie Tann as Heavy Metal Jeff, the born-again straight edge projectionist who doesn't want anyone in his booth. For anyone that's spent time around projectionists or SEC-types, he finds the erratic, possessive humor in both.

At least Porno has a refreshing reminder that, whether you're a horny teen trying to remain pure, or a family cinema built over a combination grindhouse/Hellmouth, we're all perverts together.

Porno is available from Fangoria and Vimeo as a virtual cinema presentation, whereby streaming “tickets” can be bought through virtual ticket booths for local arthouse cinemas. Choose from:
• Alamo Drafthouse (tickets here)

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Porno, Keola Racela, Evan Daves, Jillian Mueller, Larry Saperstein, Glenn Stott, Robbie Tan, Katelyn Pearce, Bill Phillips, Peter Reznikoff

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