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.
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Imaginary friends are a common part of childhood. Kids use figments of their imagination to create their own fantastical realities, usually to cope with bullying, troubles at home, or just to escape somewhere new for a little while. But in Brandon Christensen’s newest film, Z, imaginary friends are something much more sinister and violent.
Eight-year-old Josh Parsons (Jett Klyne) has made a new friend. His name is Z, he loves 2% milk, and no one can see him except Josh. At first, his parents, Beth (Keegan Connor Tracy) and Kevin (Sean Rogerson), pay Z little mind; he’s just an imaginary friend that will disappear with time. That is, until Josh begins acting out in school. He becomes aggressive, yelling at and hitting his classmates. Z’s presence begins infiltrating their home and Beth begins to realize that Z may not just be in Josh’s head. As is horror tradition, the father thinks he is acting ridiculous and wants to brush off any strange behavior as part of growing up.
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“I don’t like when you do that.”
Media is rife with teen crime dramas. From Riverdale to 13 Reasons Why, these shows and films are always melodramatic, trying to capitalize on pubescent turbulence. They try to depict the world of teenagers with some kind of reality, as if to connect with a young audiences. However, in Jennifer Reeder’s newest film, Knives and Skin, she paints the world of teenagers as a surreal, anachronistic experience that resembles a dream about to turn into a nightmare, set somewhere between the 1980s and now. But even in this dreamy world that seems to exist in another reality, Reeder still portrays issues of sexuality, consent, and trauma with more care than most teenage films.
Continue reading “Overlook Film Festival 2019: ‘Knives and Skin’ is a Dreamy, Bizarre Trip into a World of Grief”