[BROOKLYN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL] ‘PORNO’ DELIVERS WARMTH, HUMOR, AND SLEAZE

PORNO

Starring: Katelyn Pearce, Glenn Stott, Robbie Tann, Jillian Mueller, Larry Saperstein, and Evan Daves
Written by: Matt Black & Laurence Vannicelli
Directed by: Keola Racela

“Is this an…art film?” 

What do you get when you cross the droll, but affecting humor of a movie like Saved with the neon-soaked gore of a movie like Demons? Well, if you’re lucky, you get something half as good and as fun as Keola Racela’s Porno!

It’s a story you have heard a million times. The classic tale of a tale of horny, sexually confused youths who, during a shift at their local “family” movie theater, stumble upon the burned-out husk of an old porn theater. They release a succubi, hungry for virgin blood, onto the randy staff, who then have to try and survive her stimulating attacks with their sanity and balls intact. 

But while the title suggests something tawdry and disposable, Matt Black and Laurence Vannicelli’s script has much more in mind than just cheap thrills. For one thing, all the teen characterizations feel natural. It also doesn’t hurt that the script is genuinely funny, bringing a sort of self-awareness and pathos to horror-comedy that is rarely seen (or even attempted in a serious way). Bringing that script to life is the kinetic, keen-eyed direction of Keola Racela. Racela, an accomplished short director, really rises to the challenge of a feature, injecting a sexy, yet truly unsettling energy into the pages and marshaling a game cast of young talent to deliver some fantastic performances. I see real drive-in potential for Porno. It isn’t often you get brains, heart, AND sleaze in a feature, but Porno has got all three in spades.

Right from the jump, this movie lives up to its name. Opening with a scene right out of the National Lampoon, best friends Abe and Todd (Evan Daves and Larry Saperstein) are doin’ some good old fashioned (read: creepy as fuck) peeping. An act that the first bits of pointed dialogue suggest is sort of a hobby for the two losers. They then move on to their day-job: popcorn jockeys at a local two-screen cinema–better still, a weirdly religious cinema ran by a way-too-sunny creepy pastor-type (a scene-stealing Bill Phillips). Rounding out the staff is new assistant manager/fledgling Goth Chaz (Jillian Mueller, bringing a hilariously dry energy to the role), awkward jock Ricky (a stoic, but solid Glenn Stott), and projectionist and newly “reborn” Straight Edger Heavy Metal Jeff (a consistently off-beat and hilarious Robbie Tann).

After a hard week of work, punctuated with repeated showings of Encino Man and A League of Their Own (providing the film some of it’s more droll running gags), the manager allows the staff a “Friday Movie Night” where Jeff will screen whatever movie the staff decide on. A seemingly crazed transient sneaks in and rips a patch of spackling off the wall. He reveals a whole other screen walled away, complete with sinister-looking old film canisters. The kids unwittingly release a succubus (played with a vampy, sinister edge by Katelyn Pearce) by playing one of the aforementioned reels. She then starts to torture and seduce the whole staff, playing up their sexual confusion and exploding hormones for her own demonic gains.

 

And again, though the title and abrasive and sudden opening suggest something tawdry, the filmmakers and cast deliver something far more empathetic and sweet. For one thing, it handles queer sexuality and the mere act of finding oneself with a hell of a lot more respect than most mainstream “dramatic” fare. It also earns a lot of goodwill by merely being ACTUALLY funny. Like, Booksmart funny. And Booksmart charming as well! Just with a HELL of a lot more fake blood.

Though they probably could have done away with the ’90s motif (as I don’t think it adds a whole lot to the overall experience), both the writers and director deliver more than a few genuine belly laughs, either sparked by a particularly funny turn of phrase or clever visual gag. There is a pretty lethal recurring reaction shot that had me rolling, and I think it will have you as well.

BETTER STILL, it brings the red spreading when it comes to the horror aspects, too! Rife with hilariously over-the-top violence and more than a little wanton nudity, Racela is no slouch when it comes to the gore and delicious trashiness at play here. Though never exploitative or needlessly mean, Racela, the screenwriters, and a keen makeup effects department present Raimi-like blood-fountains and nakedly (literally sometimes) shocking creature design, putting the young cast through their “splatterpunk” paces and coming out looking amazing. It isn’t often that you get your cake and then are allowed to eat it afterward. Porno threads the needle well between smart teen sex comedy and rousingly fun horror romp, projecting the best of both genres with ease and sleaze.

There aren’t many horror-teen-sex-comedy-horror movies, but I’m goddamn glad Porno is one. Arguably the BEST one! But in lieu of more entries into this very specific sub-sub-sub-genre, I am more than happy to let Porno wear that crown for now. Imbued with a genuine heart, humor, and dynamite “drive-in” trashiness, Porno delivers just what it says on the tin and just a bit more.

Until nexxxt time, be seeing you.

0.00
9.6

Full-Frontal Male Nudity

10.0/10

Full-Frontal Dick Mangling

10.0/10

Genuine Heart

9.0/10

Actual Teen Characters

9.0/10

Truly Funny Gags

10.0/10

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