Horny Demon: "Porno" a '90s-set horror-comedy with a silly, over-the-top spirit


Porno (2020)
98 min.
Release Date: May 8, 2020 (On Demand)

A group of boutique movie theater workers pitted against a porno succubus — what’s not to like about that fun premise? Debuting director Keola Racela and co-writers Matt Black and Laurence Vannicelli walk that line with exactly the right knowing tone in '90s-set horror-comedy “Porno,” a spirited, often silly and over-the-top but also delightfully blood-soaked and boob-filled schlock exercise. This might not be high art or the height of good taste, nor is it a try-hard homage to 1985's "Demons" and 1991's "Popcorn," but it never intends to be, going for broke as batshit-bonkers fun that embraces taboos and excess with its severed tongue pressed firmly in cheek.

It’s 1992 in a small Christian town, where hormonal but repressed teens work at a local movie house showing “A League of Their Own” and “Encino Man.” There’s Abe (Evan Daves) and Todd (Larry Saperstein), two pals who peep on neighbors having sex; assistant manager Chaz (Alison Brie lookalike Jillian Mueller) and friend Ricky (Glenn Scott), who was at a certain camp over the summer; and “hardcore” metal-listening projectionist Jeff (Robbie Tann), who’s recently gone straight-edge. After closing at midnight and cleaning up, they can watch either movie of their choosing before their boss, Mr. Pike (Bill Phillips), returns and locks up. That’s when a belligerent vagrant gets in and then opens up a sealed-off part of the theater in the wall, leading the teenage workers to find a film canister of a satanic porno. What they don’t expect is for the film to unleash a big-breasted sex demon (Katelyn Pearce), and don’t you hate it when that happens? Can they resist her temptation and send her back to the darkness?

Without having any pretensions about itself, “Porno” surprisingly has something of substance at its core. By thematically tackling repression and how being repressed makes one want to explore natural impulses even more, the film cleverly centers on Christian teens and having them go up against a carnally enticing abomination. Horrific stuff happens to them, but never to the point that it turns ugly or unpleasant, deflating the devilish, good-time vibe. For example, one will still have to gird their loins, especially male audience members, during a prosthetic gore gag that puts to the test someone’s line about an exploding testicle. More perverse and deliriously off-color, sure, but it nostalgically reminds of an “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” episode, specifically “The Tale of the Midnight Madness,” in which a Nosferatu-like bloodsucker crosses from the screen into reality to terrorize the theater’s teenage workers. 

The cheekily humored, unrated-for-good-reason “Porno” isn’t out to cause nightmares, but for a sleazily titled genre picture, it has been made with enough wit and affection to pleasure a particular audience who likes its horror-comedy hybrids wild and weird. Even when the characters all venture into the dark and split up as horror-movie meat puppets are wont to do—and some of the dialogue needlessly leans on the obvious—the script blessedly shakes up character types. Chaz, Ricky, “Heavy Metal” Jeff,” and company are a likable bunch, and even the horndog buddies of the group have conservations that are more amusing than overly crass and smarmy, like how there’s nudity in the PG-rated “Jaws.” Under the correct circumstances, “Porno” would go best with a group of not-easily-offended friends and a case of beer, or you can watch it alone and totally sober, no judgment.

Grade: B

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