FANTASIA FESTIVAL – Gutsy Body Horror ‘Porno’ Fails to Bring the Stakes

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Porno chronicles one fateful night in a small-town movie theatre as a group of religious teens encounter the supernatural. Chastity (Jillian Mueller), Abe (Evan Daves), Todd (Larry Saperstein), Ricky (Glenn Stott), and projectionist Heavy Metal Jeff (Robbie Tann) have been entrusted by their boss to lock up after they watch a film of their choice. They then stumble upon a concealed screen hidden in the basement, learning that their wholesome Christian establishment used to be an adult movie theatre. The group decide to play a creepy-looking film reel they find down there, only to screen an overtly satanic porno and release a blood-thirsty sex demon.

There is plenty of potential here, throwing back to classic cult cinema with perverted teenagers facing their match in a satanic porn goddess who presents their most taboo desires luring them in like a Siren. And yet the set-up, however full of gutsy potential, doesn’t fully land due to a ragtag set of characters you can’t quite get behind. Unlikable characters with less-than-endearing personalities mean that Porno doesn’t amount to much more than crude sex acts and bloody perversion.

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Director Keola Racela doesn’t follow through on any proposed themes or ideas, such as the stereotypical prudishness of the religious, or the toxic masculinity and sexual repression of teenagers – one character is even outed to his colleagues upon his return from a conversion camp and this is left completely unexplored. Porno seems only interested in raising questions and leaving them there. Equally, the 1992 setting appears hollow, as though only used to provoke a forced sense of nostalgia.

However gratuitous and uninteresting the film might be overall, endless praise must be awarded to the efforts of the practical effects team. The body horror and gore are completely astonishing, particularly one memorable scene involving a penile trauma (of which there is more than one) that will leave men squirming in their seats.

Porno will have many on the fence, it delivers on sex-obsessed comedy and gore, but more often than not just falls flat and gives into some cringe-worthy and clunky dialogue. Most of the dragging of the first and second act feel undoubtedly due to budget constraints – which leaves me thinking it might have made for a lean-cut and energetic short film.

by Millicent Thomas

Millicent Thomas is a proud Mancunian studying Film & Publishing in Bath. She has written freelance for Little White Lies, Much Ado About Cinema, Reel Honey, and more. Her favourite films include Logan, Columbus, and Spy-Kids. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Letterboxd at @millicentonfilm

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