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    Horror and comedy have always gone hand-in-hand, but creating a truly successful horror-comedy has never been an easy feat. The ones that do work become personal favorites for many, with the truly special titles earning a place at the classics table. But for those that don’t work, well they crash and burn, leaving us wishing we could forget them. Director Keola Racela can let out a sigh of relief because his debut feature, Porno, firmly falls into the former rather than the latter.

    Porno takes place during the summer of 1992 somewhere in small-town,  middle America. Ultra-Conservative Christian Mr. Pike (Bill Phillips) runs a little two-screen movie theater and has recently promoted teen Chaz (Jillian Mueller) to a leadership position. On a Friday night, he leaves early, putting Chaz in charge to run the show. Working with Chaz are perverted best friend teens, Todd (Larry Saperstein) and Abe (Evan Daves), high school baseball star Ricky (Glenn Scott), and projectionist Heavy Metal Jeff (Robbie Tann) — it’s important to note that Heavy Metal Jeff does not listen to heavy metal, but rather hardcore because he’s a hardcore straight-edge Christian.

    Once the crowds go home, the theater employees get to pick one movie they can all watch together. Being the summer of ’92, their choices are between Encino Man and A League of Their Own. The staff is split trying to decide which way to go. Chaz doesn’t want to watch the stupid caveman movie, while the guys aren’t too thrilled with watching the lady baseball flick.

    Their “luck” changes when they accidentally discover a boarded-up room in the theater and find an old film reel. Despite the wishes of Heavy Metal Jeff, who fears this is going to be some pornographic horror snuff film, they decide to give it a go. The film turns out to be something you’d expect to see from Jess Franco, which is to say Heavy Metal Jeff isn’t too far off.

    The film starts to make them all feel a bit weird, so they quickly stop it. But it’s too late. They accidentally released a sex demon and this demon is thirsty for blood. Oops.

    My favorite thing about Porno, hands down, is the fact that it takes place in a movie theater. If a movie takes place in a theater, I’m usually on board no matter what else happens. The fact that this one happens to be set in the ’90s and nails down that nostalgic aesthetic for me perfectly, scores major bonus points. The cinema in Porno feels just like the dollar theater I used to go to as a kid, from its movie displays to its glitzy lights, to yes, the boarded up room. It’s perfect.

    The film also does a superb job of giving us five distinct characters with their own individual personalities, and they have great chemistry together. There are no cookie cutters here. That’s not to say they aren’t familiar, but they have enough unique quirks to set them apart. They even have their own character arcs, some obvious (Ricky) and some not so much (Todd).

    Heavy Metal Jeff ends up being the star of the bunch. While he’s not in charge, he feels a greater sense of responsibility for the others because he is slightly older, and he’s been through some stuff. Well, at least he acts like it. Seems like he may have just been a rowdy teenager they cleaned up his act as he got older. Either way, he’s fully committed to Mr. Pike for showing him the light and turning his life around. Give me a Heavy Metal Jeff spin-off movie!

    The film also does a nice job not being mean, something that easily could have been done. With the characters being overly Christian, it would have been easy to rip them to threads — something I’m never opposed to. The film pokes fun to be sure, but it never tears down. A fine line, but an important one. The characters use their faith to help them get through the challenges they face, but sometimes they have to step outside the box to get things done.

    On the horror side of things you won’t find much in the way of scares, but plenty of horror elements that genre fans will appreciate. My personal favorite is the fog. You can’t have a good horror movie without fog, and this movie has fog. And no, it doesn’t matter that it takes place inside a movie theater, the fog still makes sense.

    One scene that will likely stick with many, best described as the “nut exploding” scene, sees a character’s nuts twisted until they, well, explode. It’s graphic and will make you squirm, while also making you laugh. While the rest of the film’s effects never quite match up to that scene, and there is one instance of unnecessary CGI blood spray, there’s more than enough blood and gore to keep you satisfied.

    If you’re looking for a good party movie to watch with your friends on a Friday night while chomping down on some pizza, Porno is a por-yes.

    Porno screened at the 2019 Overlook Film Festival.

    Christopher Coffel
    My name is Chris. These are words written by me.

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