The 400-Word Review: Porno
By Sean Collier
April 23, 2020
Let’s be clear: “Porno” is not a porno.
It’s got plenty of nudity, including skin of the prurient, silly and disturbing varieties. There’s more than enough sexual content. And all things libidinous are front-of-mind for our protagonists — at first due to the hormones of early adulthood then the influence of the seductive demon they unleash.
It’s not a work of pornography, though. If the word demon didn’t tip you off: It’s a horror comedy.
“Porno” is set in the early ’90s and takes place almost entirely at a two-screen movie theater. The cinema’s manager, Mr. Pike (Bill Phillips), leads his late-teen crew in a prayer circle before each shift, prompting reactions ranging from rolled eyes to fervent devotion.
After the day’s popcorn is sold, Mr. Pike leaves the kids to watch a film of their choosing (“A League of Their Own” or “Encino Man”). Before they can settle in, a raving, wild-haired figure appears in the auditorium; when they attempt to eject him, he reveals a heretofore unnoticed passageway in the lobby and disappears into the darkness.
The gang discovers a seedy screening room underneath the building — and a mysterious film canister bearing pagan symbols. When they thread the film through the projector, a nude figure appears on the screen, conducting a hypnotic, sinister ritual. The kids cut off the film, but can’t stop the figure from manifesting in the theater.
It’s a great set-up, even if it doesn’t quite pay off. “Porno” is much more solid in concept than execution; the last act vacillates between silly and off-putting. It’s like a lot of modern b-movie horror in that way; it’s much easier to set the audience up for mayhem than it is to deliver it in a satisfying manner.
The flaws aren’t on the cast. Glenn Stott stands out as Ricky, a troubled teen desperate to stay on the straight and narrow. The de facto leader of the group is Jeff (Robbie Tann), a straight-edge prayer warrior type; it’s a grating character, but Tann plays it well. Katelyn Pearce, tasked with the largely thankless job of playing the eternally nude succubus, manages to distinguish herself beyond the role’s sensual aspects.
Director Keola Racela shows promise; the humor often works, the pace is brisk and the cursed images are suitably hypnotic. “Porno” is more tantalizing than effective (appropriately enough), but there’s sufficient oddity in it for genre fans.
My Rating: 6/10
“Porno” is available as a virtual cinema selection at many independent theaters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch it from home via Row House Online or many other independent cinemas; a portion of your ticket purchase will go to keep theaters afloat during the pandemic.