Porno (Shudder) review – more character than Demons, but less exciting

November 23, 2020
Alix Turner 0
Film, Film Reviews, Shudder
2.5

Summary

A demon unleashed in a cinema may sound familiar. This one has a group of Christian employees standing their ground against a corrupting sex demon. Fun retro gore, not recommended to anyone with testicles.

2.5

Summary

A demon unleashed in a cinema may sound familiar. This one has a group of Christian employees standing their ground against a corrupting sex demon. Fun retro gore, not recommended to anyone with testicles.

Don’t you just love it when you find something old that’s been locked away, and accidentally unleash a demon? That’s essentially the scenario in Porno: the “something old” is a curious-looking film reel, and it summons a sex demon when the film is screened. And to make things just a little bit more outlandish, the setting is a thoroughly Christian small town in the early nineties.

Chastity, aka Chaz (Jillian Mueller), Todd (Larry Saperstein), Ricky (Glenn Stott), Heavy Metal Jeff (Robbie Tann), and Abe (Evan Daves) are left to clean and shut up the cinema they work in one Friday night, with the promise that they can watch any film they choose when they’re done. While attempting to chase out someone who appears to be a stray drunk, they discover a hidden basement area with a second, lower-level theatre, clearly out of use for many years. One of them grabs a reel to take back upstairs, as it looks intriguing, probably the type of thing they’d never get to see if the boss was around. And oh yes, it looks like a “European tittie flick”, with sigils, rituals, and nudity. The repressed gang fight to turn it off, but not before the seductive woman on the screen finds her way into their world.

Although it does take rather too long to get there, the appearance of this “succubus” (the word used in the film, though neither sleep nor dreams are involved) does result in chaos, possession, death, and, um, distinctly 18-cert mutilations. The injury effects are incredibly realistic, so it’s a bit of a shame that the supernatural effects were somewhat naff in comparison. That said, Porno was clearly a tribute to horror influences of an earlier decade or two (Demons, of course, and perhaps films like Evil Dead), so perhaps the slightly cheesy aspects were deliberate. Still, this felt to me like more of a discrepancy than a contrast.

The film (unnamed) that these co-workers watched together was hardly pornographic, by the way. It was certainly suggestive, in a stylishly retro, almost psychedelic way. Perhaps the way this relatively tame film spawned a vicious demon is intended to be representative of the idea that pornographic films can spawn uncontrollable urges, an idea that was raised between the gang in Porno. Considering they could have unearthed an early video nasty in that basement, that analogy must surely have been the reason for its lightweight content.

Apart from the demon woman (Katelyn Pearce), everyone is adorable in their own ways, with sketchily drawn but reasonably distinct characters. They are the wide-eyed, sheltered sort of young Christians; quite unlike, say, the rebellious youth of Footloose, kept in line by law. I couldn’t say whether they were written this way because they might be more susceptible to the film’s corrupting influence, because they might be more endearing, or because what they go through might be more shocking; but as a group, they certainly work well together. Porno does not use these characters to make any points about religious attitudes towards sex, though, or indeed any points about religion. They simply provide an interesting angle to the plot.

And yes, there is a plot, ludicrous though it might be. Writers Matt Black and Laurence Vannicelli have put together a script which builds up to an intensely gory core, has a clear resolution, and then an oddly everything’s-ok-now ending. Like director Keola Racela, this is their first feature film, and it’s entertaining (once it gets going) without being terribly funny. Despite the name Porno, there’s also hardly any sex, either. There is sexual violence; unusually, towards exclusively men, and with minimal motivation, certainly no revenge. Actually, I don’t think I’ve seen this many male genitalia in one film before, and only one of them stays intact. Consider yourself warned!

Many films billed as “comedy horror” have satirical points to make. Porno could be making digs at Christian repression, laughing at the idea that p*********y is dangerous. I don’t think so, though: if there is any message here, it’s hidden well under the B-movie schlock surface. You’ll find it on Shudder soon if that’s your style.


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