Porno (2019)

I often talk about how the worst kind of movie is a comedy where the jokes don’t land. It’s an experience that can feel alienating (and, frankly, boring), especially when every other person in the theater is slapping their knees and doubling over with laughter. Watching Porno on opening night of this year’s Overlook Film Festival was the most alienated I’ve felt by a comedy since the opening weekend of Deadpool 2. In both instances, I was surrounded by the boisterous laughter of audiences who were tickled silly by every joke delivered onscreen, despite not a single one of them being in any way subversive or clever. I somehow still managed to have a good time with Porno, though, even while feeling like the odd man out in that crowd. That’s because it’s a horror film on top of being a comedy, and its horror beats deliver where its humor fails. When most comedies fail to make you laugh, they leave you very few opportunities to be entertained otherwise. To its credit, Porno entertains throughout by relying on the most tried & true attractions in the entertainment business: sex & violence. Even if you’re impervious to its proper Jokes, there’s still plenty of blood-soaked juvenilia to keep you occupied.

While closing shop on a busy weekend in 1990s suburbia, the Christian employees of a vintage movie theater discover a demonically possessed porno reel in a storage closet. When they watch the cursed reel out of lustful curiosity, the transgression releases an evil succubus that seduces & disassembles them one by one. The small staff of repressed twenty-somethings spend the night fighting off the succubus in a fool-hearted attempt to save the world outside the cinema, but in a larger sense they’re really fighting off the lustful temptations that conflict with their Evangelical values: sexual voyeurism, substance abuse, homosexual desire, etc. While the jokes could’ve used a punch-up from someone with sharper comedic chops, the sex & violence of the premise are fully committed to delivering the goods. I may not have laughed at any of the spoken dialogue, but as genitals were ripped to shreds in unflinching gore, grown men were pegged over a toilet by a femme sex demon, and occultist nudists bathed in blood & strobelit giallo hues, I occasionally found myself having a blast. I don’t know that I could enthusiastically recommend the picture as a non-stop laugh riot, but once its sex gradually becomes less vanilla and the number of onscreen dicks (mutilated or otherwise) piles up in practical gore mayhem, it kinda gets charmingly juvenile.

There’s a particular kind of Horror Nerd out there for whom this movie will work entirely, comedic warts & all. I know this for a fact because each bon mot landed to thunderous guffaws at our Overlook screening. I’ll even admit that some of my own enjoyment of the picture was in hearing those very same Horror Bros squirm with disgust when a scrotum was ripped open by a sex demon or a prostate was worked for all the un-Christian pleasure it was worth, since those moments were when I laughed the most. Given that the film shares thematic overlap with B-pictures I’ve enjoyed before like Demons, All About Evil, and Cecil B Demented (and it even features posters for personal favorites like Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead & Doris Wishman’s Deadly Weapons), there’s definitely a shared appreciation for camp & excess where my own sensibilities overlap with its intended crowd. I just more often found myself amused when they were sexually antagonized than when they were comedically pandered to. Porno may not succeed by most horror comedy metrics, but it’s willing to engage with the sexual taboos that would most upset its straight-guy-horror-nerd target audience and I greatly respect that chutzpah, even if I was in no danger of busting a gut.

-Brandon Ledet

Podcast Movie Report: The Overlook Film Festival 2019

For this week’s new-releases podcast report, Brandon and CC discuss all the films they caught at the 2019 Overlook Film Fest,  an international horror festival staged in downtown New Orleans, “The Most Haunted City in America.”

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

– CC Chapman & Brandon Ledet

Movies to See in New Orleans This Week: The Overlook Film Fest Edition

Last year’s sudden appearance of the Overlook Film Festival on the local calendar was an unholy, unexpected blessing. There are only a few substantial film fests that are staged in New Orleans every year, so for an international horror film festival with world premieres of Big Deal genre movies to land in our city was a major boon, almost too good to be true. I attended the festival as a volunteer, catching three artsy-fartsy creature features (all directed by women) and a couple live podcast recordings over the course of a few days, hungry (bloodthirsty?) for more. This year, Swampflix will be attending Overlook with legitimate press credentials, meaning we’ll be able to cover even more films playing at the fest – a prospect I’m incredibly excited about.

The trick is knowing what films to cover. There are 23 features and 18 shorts from 11 different countries screening at the festival over the course of a single weekend. It’s overwhelming. Self-described as “a summer camp for genre fans,” The Overlook is centrally located, corralling all of its movie screenings to just a few venues: Le Petit Theatre for its more prestigious premieres, the UNO Performing Arts Center for a repertory screening of The Faculty (with Robert Rodriguez in attendance), and what is now the ghost of the old Canal Place theater for the bulk of its heavy-lifting. That means you can pack in a lot of movies in a very short time. You just need to know how to narrow down your selections.

Personally, I like to use film fests as an opportunity to see smaller films that are unlikely to get wide theatrical distribution otherwise, as opposed to bigger movies I know I can see at a corporate multiplex just a few weeks later. It’s incredibly cool that The Overlook will be hosting early screenings of Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die, the follow-up to Goodnight Mommy (The Lodge), and the upcoming Octavia Spencer psychobiddy revival Ma, but I plan on catching those a little later down the line. Listed below are ten genre films I’m incredibly excited about that are screening at The Overlook Film Festival this weekend but most likely will not play in a proper New Orleans cinema otherwise. Take advantage of this super cool genre film extravaganza before they leave us for another city (which is entirely possible, given the recent death of the Canal Place theater) by catching something offbeat & adventurous that you wouldn’t be able to see projected large & loud in any other context.

In Fabric : “At the height of winter sales in a modern UK department stores, a cursed dress passes from owner to owner, leaving a path of destruction in its wake in this wry, visionary comedy from the director of Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy.Friday, May 31st – 4:30 PM – Le Petit Theatre & Saturday, June 1st – 7:15 PM – Canal Place

Greener Grass : “Writers, directors and stars Jocelyn DeBooer and Dawn Luebbe create a hilariously deadpan hellscape of competitive suburbia with a boldly stylized absurdist chain of events that unfurls with increasing fervor after one soccer mom asks her best friend for her baby.” Friday, May 31st – 8:00 PM – Canal Place & Saturday, June 1st – 9:45 PM – Canal Place

One Cut of the Dead : “In one of the year’s most crowd-pleasing surprises, this twisty horror comedy sees chaos ensue when a low-budget film crew, hard at work on a zombie flick in a WWII bunker, comes face to face with real terror lurking outside.” Friday, May 31st – 3:30 PM – Canal Place & Sunday, June 2nd – 7:45 PM – Le Petit Theatre

Paradise Hills : “With razor-sharp artistic direction and searing wit, Alice Waddington’s directorial debut tells the story in which a young girl is sent to a mysterious reform school specializing in crafting ladies to be more ‘proper.'” Friday, May 31st – 12:30 PM – Canal Place & Sunday, June 2nd – 7:15 PM – Canal Place

Horror Noire : “A free community screening and panel discussion of this refreshing and incisive documentary tracing the history of Black Americans in Hollywood within the horror genre. Hear from Jordan Peele (Get Out), Tony Todd (Candyman), Rachel True (The Craft), Keith David (The Thing) and many more about representation in our favorite genre from the beginning of cinema to today.” Sunday, June 2nd – 2:45 PM – Le Petit Theatre

Come to Daddy : “Norval, a troubled young man travels to a small seaside town to answer a letter from his long-lost father. When he gets there, the two begin to reconnect, but Norval can’t shake the feeling that something is drastically off. Elijah Wood stars in this hilarious and terrifying twisty thrill ride, the directorial debut of lauded horror producer Ant Timpson.” Friday, May 31st – 7:00 PM – Le Petit Theatre

Knives and Skin : “Calling upon echoes of Twin Peaks, artist and filmmaker Jennifer Reeder serves up an eerie teen noir punctuated with haunting 80s covers and unforgettable imagery centering around the effects of one girls’ disappearance on a small town.” Saturday, June 1st – 2:45 PM – Canal Place & Sunday, June 2nd – 12:15 PM – Canal Place

Satanic Panic : “When a pizza delivery girls’ final order of the night turns out to be for a blood-hungry group of Satanists thirsting for a sacrifice, all hell breaks loose…literally. From the Overlook alum writers of We Are Still Here and Paperbacks from Hell, and director Chelsea Stardust comes the goriest of comedies.” Friday, May 31st – 9:30 PM – Le Petit Theatre & Sunday, June 2nd – 7:00 PM – Canal Place

Vast of Night : “First-time filmmaker Andrew Patterson smashes onto the scene with the elegant telling of a 1950s radio DJ and his switchboard operator companion, who stumble upon a strange frequency that may be carrying evidence of other-worldly life.” Saturday, June 1st – 12:00 PM – Canal Place & Sunday, June 2nd – 12:30 PM – Le Petit Theatre

Porno : “Equal parts hilarious and grotesque, this take-no-prisoners horror sex comedy sees a group of ultra-Christian movie theater employees face their worst fears when a mysterious set of pornographic reels releases a little more than their repressed desires.” Thursday, May 30th – 9:30 PM – Canal Place & Saturday, June 1st – 4:30 PM – Canal Place

-Brandon Ledet

Overlook Film Fest’s New Orleans Debut

It’s an exciting time to be a film nerd in New Orleans. It feels like our art cinema scene is finally bouncing back from when the AMC Palace megaplexes wiped out smaller independent venues in the 90s & 00s. The Broad Theater, The Prytania, and Chalmette Movies are keeping adventurous arts programming alive on local big screens on a weekly basis. Both New Orleans Film Fest and New Orleans French Film Fest are gaining steam in screening the most exciting films of any given year in a city that would have to wait to catch them on VOD otherwise. Joining this embarrassment of riches is the Overlook Film Festival, a nomadic horror film fest that originated in Oregon and has yet to find a permanent home. Over four beautiful late-April days in the French Quarter, the Overlook festival made its welcome New Orleans debut, making me question what we did to deserve such a magical, unprompted blessing from the indie cinema gods. Like WrestleMania’s recent return, the festival felt like a birthday present to the city on its 300th anniversary, one I very much appreciated even if we ultimately don’t get to keep it.

The tricky thing about holding onto Overlook Film Fest is that it’s young and looking to expand. A four-day festival that originated at Oregon’s Timberline Lodge (which was used for exterior shots in Kubrick’s The Shining, where the festival borrowed its name), Overlook quickly outgrew its original locale in both size & tone. Festival organizers noted in an interview with Indiewire that the theater space was too small to accommodate their planned expansion, but it also seems like their mission statement as “a summer camp for genre fans” was at odds with the hotel’s Shining-rejecting nature as “a family-oriented establishment.” This branding conflict forced the festival to shift its focus away from association with Kubrick’s shooting location to a wider range of “iconic locations that evoke the spirit of the Overlook hotel, horror’s most infamous haunted fictional location.” For its New Orleans debut, the fest landed itself in the Bourbon Orleans, which unlike the Timberline, leans into its spooky reputation by billing itself as “one of New Orleans’s top haunted hotels.” The brilliance of the move is that the Bourbon Orleans’s French Quarter locale opens the festival to several screening venues instead of one self-contained building. It transforms the French Quarter, an area crawling with “ghost tour” tourist traps, into a horror nerd’s playground the fest’s site describes as being “home to countless apparition sightings voodoo legends, and vampire curses.” They also propose that a ghost child spotted at the hotel was likely on influence on the creepy twins in The Shining, which sure, why not? Of course, the French Quarter is a limited space with its own set-in-stone boundaries and the Overlook’s arrival during peak festival season means it might have to fight for screening venues as it outgrows the mere two it reserved this year, but for now the events weren’t at all overcrowded and the city seemed to have the exact vibe they’re looking for. Let’s hope that lasts.

Speaking of gradual expansion, Swampflix was too small to secure a press pass for this year’s festival. I wanted to support Overlook as best as I could to welcome its return, though, so I bought tickets to a few individual screenings and signed up to volunteer for a shift helping organize the fest. By happenstance, my volunteer shift turned out to be a total joy, as I worked the door for live recordings of two podcasts I regularly listen to anyway: Shock Waves and The Canon. Outside taking tickets & headcounts and occasionally providing information to attendees, I mostly just listened in as guests Thomas Lennon gushed about The Exorcist III (and for a brief, glorious moment, my beloved Monster Trucks) and Barbara Crampton discussed the highs & lows of horror as a medium from the POV of a woman who’s lived them at both extremes. I got to have some brief exchanges with guests, like telling Blumhouse producer Ryan Turek how much I appreciate his podcast & wishing a panel-crashing Udo Kier a good morning (he, Lennon, and Crampton were all promoting the festival’s premiere of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich). The whole event was staged inside the Bourbon’s Orleans’s “haunted ballroom,” the site of frequently reported ghost sightings and, thus, a wonderful podcasting venue. Basically, I’m sure the festival (or, more specifically, the New Orleans Film Society folks who organized the volunteers) appreciated the extra hands, but the whole event felt like something I would have attended for fun anyway.

Since I couldn’t afford an All Access Pass for the festival and couldn’t negotiate my way in as press, I had to be choosy in selecting movies to cover for the site. Major event screenings at the Le Petit Theatre of films I’ve been dying to see like Hereditary, Upgrade, and the Unfriended sequel were calling out to me like genre film Sirens, but I decided to seek out smaller films instead. I knew I’d be able to see Hereditary on the big screen if I could be patient for a couple more months, but the joy of film festivals is often seeing proper screenings of smaller films that you’ll otherwise only see distributed on VOD (if at all). As such, I watched three foreign language horror films directed by women that I’ve heard heavy buzz behind (on podcasts like Shock Waves) for months, but I suspect might not even make it to venues like The Broad: Blue My Mind, Tigers are Not Afraid, (and my personal favorite) Good Manners. All three films (all screened at Canal Place) were excellent, adventurous participations in & subversion of familiar genre tropes – the exact kind of programming you dream of for a horror-themed festival. The programming of Good Manners & Tigers Are Not Afraid as an effective double bill was especially harmonious, as both films operate on a similar post-del Toro dark fairy tale vibe while still varying wildly in visual & thematic material. The body horror transformations of Good Manners & Blue My Mind were also interesting reflections of each other, as discussing the very nature of their exact creature feature premises could constitute spoilers given their patient reveals (even though seasoned audiences know what monsters to expect long before they arrive). It was an incredibly small sampling of the two dozen features that screened at the festival, but I could not be happier with the titles I saw. At the very least, I expect to be evangelizing for Good Manners as one of the Top Films of 2018 for the remainder of the year.

It’s impossible to tell what the future holds for the Overlook Film Festival as it expands in size & ambition. I doubt even the festival organizers themselves have a clear idea of where they’re going. I can report, though, that the first year in New Orleans was an ooky-spooky delight, an experience I’ll gladly repeat for as many years as they’re willing & able to return. The crowds were simultaneously more laidback and more enthusiastic than what I’m used to seeing at our local film fests, which made for a wonderfully nerdy genre film environment. I hope everyone who traveled here had as rewarding of an experience as I did. I also hope they saw some ghosts.

-Brandon Ledet