Review: PORNO (2019) – Fantasia 2019

Porno Poster

Let’s make it clear right from the start, Porno is not a porn film. Despite an opening shot that involves two teens spying on a couple having very loud sex it’s actually a horror-comedy. The debut feature for director Keola Racela as well as writers Matt Black and Laurence Vannicelli echos films such as Demons, Popcorn and Dead By Midnight (11 PM Central) with its reel horrors that become all too real.

It’s 1992 and newly promoted Chastity (Jillian Mueller), projectionist Heavy Metal Jeff (Robbie Tann), and ushers Abe (Evan Daves), Todd (Larry Saperstein), and Ricky (Glenn Stott) work at their small deeply religious and conservative town’s theater. Their shift even starts with a prayer circle lead by its owner Mr. Pike (Bill Phillips, House Of Cards).

Given permission to watch one of the current films after their shift, they argue of whether it should be Encino Man or A League Of Their Own. However, when a sinister-looking derelict breaks in they end up finding a hidden stash of films of a much less wholesome variety. Curiosity gets the better of them and they screen one and unleash the succubus Lilith (Katelyn Pearce, Clinton Road, Catskill Park).

I admit to having some doubts in the film’s first act. These teens are just as bible-thumping as their elders. Ricky even says he’s attracted to his girlfriend in part because she’s “on fire for God”. You can see where I thought they would be getting on my nerves in short order. However, Porno manages to humanize them, pulling out the doubts and fears they hide behind their piety. The fact that they have to face down a literal sex demon just adds to this. Watching them being forced to come to grips with their own sexuality is the ultimate humanizing element in the film. Especially the scene where one of them is outed.

And, as the agent of that humanizing, Katelyn Pearce turns in an incredible performance as Lilith without saying a word. Think Mathilda May in Lifeforce and you’ll be on the right track. Really all of the performances in Porno are solid given the relatively inexperienced cast.

Lest it sound like Porno is a serious drama, it isn’t. It just does an incredible job of working all of this into a film about a succubus stalking a bunch of Christian teens. And that is maybe the film’s strongest point. You won’t notice any of it until after you’ve enjoyed it as a horror film.

Porno is on the festival circuit including a stop at Fantasia 2019 where it made its Canadian premier July 13th with a second showing on the 16th. Hopefully, this gets picked up for distribution quickly, it’s a great film and deserves to be seen.

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Jim Morazzini

Movie buff, gym rat and crazy cat guy