Porno first look review Arrow FrightFest 2019

Teenagers in a Christian movie theatre unleash a succubus in gory ‘n’ sweet horror comedy Porno

Even in a FrightFest line-up filled with “wonder what that’s about, then?” titles, Keola Racela’s debut feature Porno is the most self-consciously eye-catching. It even starts with a scene of a couple having sex, only for the camera to pan out to reveal that they’re being spied on by two teenage boys: Abe (Evan Davies) and his best friend Todd (Larry Saperstein). But when the duo and the rest of the crew at the Christian movie theatre discover a mysterious reel of a film in a hidden section of the basement, they’re about to discover that projectionist Heavy Metal Jeff’s (Robbie Tann) dire warnings about what happens when you watch filth don’t even cover half of it.

Set in the pre-internet days of 1992, before these teenagers had more options than just choosing between Encino Man and A League Of Their Own, Porno definitely has one eye on the grungy, grotty joys of late 80s movies like Demons as the sinister pornographic film unleashes a devilish succubus ready to exploit their raging hormones and repressed desires. There are all the ingredients here for a fluid-flinging bad taste midnight movie, but writers Matt Black and Laurence Vannicelli aim in a slightly different direction.

Because while it is filled with gore, sex and terrible things happening to peoples’ genitals, there’s a real heart here too. This is a film that likes its horny teenagers and wants us to like them too, and the cast make that very easy with Jillian Mueller the stand-out as goth girl Chaz, who’s infatuated with handsome jock Ricky (Glenn Stott) and unaware that his interests lie elsewhere. Tann is also wonderful as the wired older kid who’s been away to college and come back determined to stamp out anything remotely impure in his personality, putting all his faith in theatre owner and pillar of the community Mr Pike (Bill Phillips).

As the film progresses and the blood starts flowing, Porno starts to take aim at the repression and hypocrisy that hurts young people and it’s full credit to the filmmakers that it manages to deliver the fun you’d want from “succubus hunts teens in a movie theatre” while making a sincere, heartfelt and angry point at the same time. The actual plot is a little overstretched (and slightly muddled, as the succubus punishes everyone’s sexual urges, not just the wicked’s) and the finale drags on too long, but with likeable characters, strong performances from a young cast, a sweet, smart script and inventive direction, Porno is something we can all enjoy.

Porno was seen and reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2019.