'Porno' Review: A Dick-Rippin' Good Time (Fantasia 2019)

Horny Christians versus a sex demon from Hell. What could go wrong?

Porno

Keola Racela’s Porno is a strange movie. Imagine if Kenneth Anger’s psychedelic occultism was tossed into a blender with Dario Argento-esque color palettes, gross-out sex comedies, and underdog stories about teenage virgin friendship, and you’re almost there. It’s an experience that’s bound to please midnight movie aficionados, but it’s not as smutty or sleazy as the title suggests. There’s a lot of nudity, though.

The story follows a group of movie theater workers — who also happen to be Christians — struggling to balance their faith and their natural urges. The gang includes Chastity (Jillian Mueller), who likes to listen to The Cure and wear makeup. Her colleagues include projectionist Heavy Metal Jeff (Robbie Tann), Abe (Evan Daves), Todd (Larry Saperstein), and Ricky (Glenn Stott), who’s just returned from a camp dedicated to curing teenagers of homosexuality.

A typical night at the theater sees the employees arguing whether to show A League of Their Own or Encino Man. But after a homeless bum finds his way into the theater and makes a scene, they discover a secret screening room that projects naughty movies. What initially seems like “European titty movie” smut turns out to be a gateway for a succubus (Katelyn Pearce) to enter the world of the living to claim souls and rip off dicks. Furthermore, she’s able to use these Christians’ most perverse desires against them — whether that’s smoking cigarettes or engaging in butt stuff — to exact her torment.

The levels of perversion on display here have nothing on some Vatican cardinals, but in the eyes of these characters, their kinks and temptations don’t correspond with their religious beliefs. Of course, part of the fun is watching them fail to abide by their own rules, which makes them quite endearing. They’re not entirely devoted to a strict Christian dogma to be free of what they think constitutes sin, but they’re god-fearing enough to feel constantly conflicted all the same.

On paper, a horror-comedy about sexually repressed Christians and a hellish sex demon has blasphemy written all over it. Surprisingly, though, Porno opts for a more nuanced approach. The film isn’t out to intentionally offend the religious establishment; instead, it posits radical ideas like how it’s okay to be attracted to members of the opposite — and the same — sex and smoke a few cigs while still believing in a higher power. In different hands, this could have been a movie that took great delight in corrupting religious values. But it’s a better film for having resisted such an easy target because it stays true to its flawed characters.

From a technical standpoint, Porno is impressive stuff. DP John Wakayama Carey treats us to some colorful visual splendor that feels lifted from an Argento or Mario Bava movie. There’s also some decent practical SFX work that will arouse viewers who like their dismembered dongs looking like the real deal. The gore and brutality is gratuitous, and perfectly in line with the film’s overall tone.

My only minor gripes with Porno are a midsection that drags at points and an anticlimactic final third. There’s definitely more potential mayhem and absurdity to be mined from the awesome premise, but those are nit picky criticisms of what is, overall, an entertaining horror comedy that boasts a director with a lot of promise. I look forward to seeing all of Racela’s future projects, and he’s a name I recommend keeping an eye on if you like horror comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. His imagination is clearly demented and that’s never a bad thing.

Finally, viewers might want to double bill Porno with Lamberto Bava’s Demons, which contains a similar premise and some Satanic panic satire, but ups the carnage factor quite considerably.

Kieran is a Daily Curator for the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.