Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Sometimes you hear a concept that just screams “This is going to be fun”. Concepts like “a killer tyre” or “a musical zombie movie” or “Ron Jeremy’s penis is sentient and wants to kill people” are pretty wild. As long as the people making the movie with those concept are willing to take it as far as they can then the movie’s going to be something fun. When I heard that the concept behind this movie was “Haunted porno film” I was on board right away because that sounds like it could be hilarious, a version of the film Demons but with a porno film? Sign me up, give me this insane silly horror comedy goodness… yeah, the key part of these films that works is when they actually take the concept to its logical extreme, sadly this one doesn’t do that.

Porno is set in a little cinema run by a heavily religious man that only allows them to show PG 13 movies, currently including Encino Man and A League Of Their Own. When the owner of the cinema, Mr Pike (Bill Phillips) allows his employees to use his cinema for a private film club they all can’t decide what to watch… until they stumble upon a mysterious film in a boarded-up basement underneath the cinema. Turns out, when they put that movie on that it’s actually a porno film, one complete with boobs and limp penises and blood (because that is what porno is, right?) and oops, they accidentally awaken a succubus who has come to sex them all to death… with sex, and exploding penises but mostly she will kill them with sex. I mean, she would if this film followed through with its premise.

It doesn’t though, this film has this killer comedic idea of a bunch of religious kids battling a sex demon from a porno and never does anything that special with it. It almost takes an eternity for them to get to the scene where they find the film reel and play it and along the way they try to introduce the characters but they’re basically nothing. We have the twin perverts Abe (Evan Daves) and Todd (Larry Saperstein), the girl in charge Chastity (Jillian Mueller), the jock who just got back from ‘camp’ Ricky (Glenn Stott) and the projectionist who is called Heavy Metal Jeff (Robbie Tann) even though he isn’t into heavy metal. They don’t really have personalities and are mostly interchangeable, except for Heavy Metal Jeff who is going to lean on his “I don’t like Heavy Metal” joke for 90 minutes straight whether you like it or not.

For a horror-comedy, this film goes pretty light on both of those things. It’s a demonic horror film with a body count of 2 if we’re being generous, and its best moment of comedy involves a tourniquet being put on a pair of exploded testicles. Maybe I came in with too high an expectation, but when I hear “Porn film summoned a demon”, I kind of want a little more than just… well, the two things I’ve described. They don’t even really deal with things like the two pervert characters who clearly aren’t the best Christians, their perverseness is background dressing but it’s not really helping the story when “Perverts defeat the porno demon” should’ve been the first thing that someone thought of. Hell, there is an entire extended plotline about Ricky being gay, the camp he refers to attending was a gay conversion camp so you’d think that maybe they could make a few jokes about the horror of that place. Nope, barely a thing. They kind of make a little joke about it during the tourniquet scene (because ya know, can’t have a gay guy apply first aid to your exploded penis… hilarious) and the movie’s climax revolves around the gay character having gay sex with the demon but… that’s about it.

The depressing part about this film is that I spent the vast majority of the runtime thinking about what jokes could be in what scenes, I was actively writing punchlines in my head because I was that desperate for someone to actually make a joke. Again, maybe I’m asking too much but when I see a horror-comedy I would like an even amount of scares and jokes but there just aren’t many here to work with. It’s relying on the actual concept to provide the laughs, get you to go “See, it’s funny because they watched a porno and now there’s a succubus there to kill them” instead of giving the characters funny lines of dialogue or comedic deaths. They just have funny ideas, but don’t execute them well. They just hope you laugh at the idea without actually trying to make the idea funnier.

Porno is not awful, but it feels like a gigantic missed opportunity. It provides the absolute bare minimum that the concept suggests that they offer without going the distance to try and make this movie into the comedic gem it so easily could’ve been. The performances are fine, the visuals are fine and the effects are mostly pretty good but the entire film just hinges on you finding the idea alone funny for 90 minutes and it never provides you anything really beyond that. It’s a shame because I wanted to love it, but the film is just too restrained to make the subject matter work and the missed potential drags it back substantially.

One thought on “Porno (2019) – (CENSORED)

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