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FILM REVIEW: PORNO (FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL)

As FANTASIA 2019 rolls on, we bring you another review from the front lines. Our first review showed you the cerebral, absurdist comedy THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE, which was admittedly NOT a horror film…So for our follow-up review we’ve plunged right into the heart of a faith-based comedic horror extravaganza called PORNO. While the film doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of its premise, it definitely has the potential of finding its way to a midnight screening near you.

 

PORNO tells the story of a group of Christian teens who run a small town movie theater. Their faith is a defining characteristic, as it lends itself nicely to the humorous debauchery that is about to follow. The film sets itself up as a nostalgia piece by having the film’s story take place on a busy weekend in 1992. Scary to think that the 90’s are now fair game to run a nostalgia picture, but maybe I’m just getting old. Anyway, a group prayer session kicks off the evening led by the cinemas manager Mr. Pike (Bill Phillips). After Mr. Pike leaves, it’s up to the teens to keep the place running. The group consists of the assistant manager Chaz (Jillian Mueller), Abe (Evan Daves), Todd (Larry Saperstein), and the object of Chaz’s affection Ricky (Glenn Stott). In addition to the front of house staffers, the projection booth is operated by a self-righteous asshole affectionately called “Heavy Metal Jeff” (Robbie Tann). Heavy Metal Jeff is the most religious of the group, and most of the humor that follows will involve his actions. He’s high-strung, jittery, and very opinionated.

After showing the nights features of ENCINO MAN and A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, the group can’t agree on which movie they’d like to watch after closing. Just as they’re debating what to watch, a psychotic vagrant runs wild into the theater. The group goes chasing after the man, only to lose him after he crashes through a hidden wall behind a curtain. The man is gone, but the hidden wall reveals a dark basement that looks to have been sealed off for ages. As the group explores, they come across a number of old film canisters with burnt film inside. However, one film canister remains intact and of course, it’s the one with the satanic symbols all over it.

Everyone but Heavy Metal Jeff wants to watch the film, and eventually the majority rules. As the film starts playing, it appears to be a Satanic ritual of sorts…with a well endowed woman walking slowly towards the teens on the screen. Jeff and Ricky absolutely lose their minds and it titillates them in ways they are not comfortable expressing, especially when their faith is in question. On the other hand,  Abe, Chaz, and Todd want to see where this goes. Todd naively asks “is this an art film?” as the rest of the gang stare in complete awe at the events taking place. What they don’t know is that this film is going to unleash the real life manifestation of the woman on screen…for she is Succubus! Basically, she is a soul-sucking demon hell bent on corrupting these youths through her overt sexuality.

The premise is an amazing one, but it fails to pull all of the elements together. To call it uneven is an understatement. It’s funny, but once the horror starts it has difficulty straddling both genres successfully. It’s not funny enough on its own to be a comedy, or scary enough to be a horror film. It leaves the audience with the proverbial “blue balls” of not living up to either…See what I did there?

The characters are likeable, but they come across as little more than caricatures of what we’ve come to expect from these types of films. The strong outcast, the nerdy kid, the sex hound etc etc. The element of their Christianity does make for some good laughs due to the pornographic turn of events, but it’s a bit predictable. Later in the film, things do take a more direct horror turn. But with the exception of one or two moments of EXTREME gore, it’s too little too late. I felt like I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, making the 98 minute run time feel much longer.

I call it a “faith-based” comedic horror film, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s some type of Christian propaganda film. It’s actually quite the opposite. It was more of a cinematic device to make our protagonists appear all the more naive in the face of the danger they’re up against. Their faith clouds their judgement and makes them more vulnerable. It does lead to a few funny twists, but ultimately makes them seem kind of dumb. More disappointing for me however, was the under-utilization of setting the film in the early 90’s. The film starts off quipping some fun nostalgic 90’s bits, only to completely abandon any sort of period relevance. After about the first 15 minutes, the decade in which the film takes place doesn’t really matter. It seemed like a missed opportunity for some laughs.

 

Director Keola Racela clearly has a bright future, and for a feature film debut,  PORNO has a lot to offer. It references some of the greatest horror films of all time like THE EVIL DEAD, DEMONS, or even ROSEMARY’S BABY, but it struggles to find its own voice. I still had a fun time watching this flick, and I think there is definitely an audience for it. It’s the classic case of a film with all the right intentions and influences, it just fails to pull it all together by the films conclusion… The promise outweighs the final product.

 

“PORNO leaves the audience with proverbial “blue balls”.  The promise outweighs the final product.”

 

2 1/2 Tombstones out of 5…

 

 

 

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Andy Breslow

Andy Breslow

Andy has been a lifelong horror fan and genre journalist for close to two decades. He regularly attends film festivals and horror conventions with a personal collection of roughly four thousand films . Formerly a writer/reviewer for Bloody Disgusting, he was most recently a staff member/programmer for a prestigious Denver based genre film festival.
Although he loves all sub-genres of horror, his favorite styles are Italian Giallo and 80’s slasher films. Some of his favorite horror films include ‘Martyrs(2008)’, ‘Audition(1999)’, ‘The Thing(1982)’ and almost anything by Dario Argento.

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