Thursday, July 18, 2019

Fantasia 2019: 'Porno' Movie Review


If you lament the lack of graphic genital torture or exploded testicles in modern horror cinema, you’re in luck. First time director Keola Racela’s  Porno has the cure for what ails you. It also has demons, repressed religious nerds, an uptight straight edge kid, and more Encino Man references than one might initially expect. Gory, ridiculous, and often legitimately scary, it’s a perfect movie to watch late at night, preferably with a rowdy, intoxicant-lubricated crowd.


Five Christian teens working at a local movie theater in 1992 are closing up for the night when they discover a secret doorway that leads to a secret room where they discover a secret film. When they spool up the movie, it turns out to be an artsy porno. But not a normal artsy porno. Oh no, this is a satanic artsy porno, one that summons a vengeful sex demon. Recall the previous use of the word ridiculous. Apparently screenwriters Matt Black and Laurence Vannicelli incorporated autobiographical elements from Racela’s real life into the story, but precisely which parts remains a bit unclear. (Maybe the sex demon is made up, maybe not, who’s to say?)



For the kids we have the goth-leaning, newly minted assistant manager, Chastity (Jillian Mueller), nailed-to-the-X ‘90s hardcore kid Heavy Metal Jeff (Robbie Tan), uptight jock Ricky (Glenn Scott), and pervy wieners Abe (Evan Daves) and Todd (Larry Saperstein). When the always-nude succubus, Lilith (Katelyn Pearce), arrives on the scene, she torments said teens using their deepest, darkest secrets and desires against them. 

As campy and silly as Porno can be—and it’s plenty goofy, saturated as it is in blood and topless sex monsters—there are also serious frights to find. The inciting movie watches like hellish, psychedelic Italian sleaze from the 1970s, and there’s ample room for creepy atmosphere, tension, and scares between outrageous gags and carnage. 

[Related Reading: Fantasia 2019: 'The Deeper You Dig' Movie Review]


Racela and company also strike a solid balance between the two sides, the laughs and the shrieks. As the plot unfolds, and the succubus digs into the kids, twisting their weaknesses and longings against them, things get dark in ways that have nothing to do with Satan or erotic marauders. The film plays on themes of temptation, craving, hypocrisy, loss of faith, and guilt, and most of this works thanks to a strong chemistry between the actors. They have a fun, boisterous comradery, but they also carry earnest, heartfelt emotion. These bonds and depth of feeling, and the weight they hoist on their shoulders, help sell both the raucous humor and the grim, borderline nihilistic horror.

The momentum flags at a few points in the middle as scenes drag on a bit too long. At times the budget and single-setting constraints definitely become noticeable. And by the end, it runs out of steam and the momentum peters out as it builds towards a climax. There’s a palpable “how do we get out of this” feel as we near the end, and the conclusion has an air of uncertainty or hesitation. 

[Related Reading: Check Out More Horror Movie News and Reviews Here]


Despite issues and rough patches, Porno is a damn fine time—I’m going to get some weird traffic from this. It watches like a twisted, depraved Amblin movie, hearkening back to cuddlier horror, but with NC-17 affectations. Covered in boobs and blood, it’s sophomoric for sure, but also fun as hell and a strong calling card for Keola Racela.

[Related Reading: Find the Rest of Our Fantasia 2019 Coverage Here]

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