Overlook Film Festival 2019: Horror-Comedy ‘Porno’ Gives a Whole New Meaning to Ball Busting

Everyone has a story about how they learned about sex. Whether it was a traumatic conversation with your red-faced parents or an awkward lesson given by your health teacher, learning about sex is never easy or enjoyable. In Keola Racela’s horror-comedy, Porno, a group of naive Christian teens get their sex education in a rather unique way: from a murderous succubus they accidentally summon in a movie theatre.

In a quiet, Christian town, four teens, and a self-proclaimed straight-edge burnout, spend their evenings working at a movie theatre, serving popcorn to townspeople heading to see Encino Man or A League of Their Own. But at the last customer leaves, the doors are locked as this group of misfits can settle in to watch a free movie. On this particular Friday night, their viewing is delayed by a strange old man who breaks into the theatre and reveals a hidden porno theatre in the basement.

As they investigate the porn-filled basement, they discover a mysterious film canister to serve as their Friday night viewing party. The film is threaded through the projector, the lights are turned off, and the film starts rolling. What seems like an avant-garde European art film turns out to be a method for summoning a succubus from hell. The teens must then face their deepest sexual desires when trying to fight the sexual creature, which is no easy task when you’ve avoided your sexuality for your entire life. Along the way, sacrifices are made, blood is spilt, and balls are literally busted.

For a film named Porno there is a lot less sex than you’d expect, which is not a bad thing. The title works to create certain expectations in the audience, when really this film is about confused, horny teenagers who don’t know what to do with their sexual desire. Sure, they could masturbate or engage in underage sex, but they are constantly told any sexual act is a sin. So, they all stew in their feelings until a demon from hell can show them otherwise. While It is not as sexually gratuitous as its title suggests, there sure is a lot of nudity and penile mutilation.

These gross-out moments, however, don’t appear until the film’s stronger second half. Tonally, the film is split between weird teen comedy and gory demon film. The lore, introduced in the last thirty minutes, would function better was the film’s centerpiece, offering a deeper look at the succubus and push the scares to the forefront. But, instead, Racela focuses on each employee’s own struggles with sexuality, from Ricky’s (Glenn Stott)  experience with conversion therapy to Abe’s (Evan Daves) voyeurism. Horror takes a backseat to human drama masked with dick and boob jokes, creating a hybrid of 1980s teen horror and comedy that may not land for some, but guarantees a fun viewing experience.

With a name like Porno, you would expect nothing but sex-fueled horror with no message. But, through teenage comedy and over-the-top gore, Racela tells a serious story through the lens of 1980s-esque demon horror film. It is a comedy that utilizes gross out moments, but through the piles of viscera there is a message about the consequences of repressing sexual desire. Despite pacing issues, Porno’s aesthetic and strong performances create a fun film perfect for your next movie night.

Read more of our Overlook Film Festival coverage here.

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