Talking Movies

July 3, 2018

From the Archives: Donkey Punch

Another deep dive into the pre-Talking Movies archives uncovers a forgotten British horror movie of some sleaziness whose director subsequently helmed only one more movie before retreating to television work.

 

Oh lord, fresh from the brain-rattling nightmare of trying to explain what Teeth was about along comes Donkey Punch. Half the film critics in the world will just have thrown out the thesaurus at this point in trying to come up with euphemisms…

After her boyfriend cheats on her Nichola Burley is dragged along to Spain by her friends; including Jaime Winstone, Ray Winstone’s daughter, which automatically improves her chances of survival. Once there they meet three guys who suggest they go back to the yacht they crew while the owner is away. They follow and find Robert Boulter’s Sean, the only sensible character in this film apart from Burley’s Tammi, who isn’t happy with their plans. All the characters pop E and get drunk and Tom Burke’s obnoxious Bluey (think Brian Austin Green with a harelip) starts to boast about his sexual exploits in an incredibly annoying faux-Jamaican accent. Sean and Tammi remain on deck while the others go beneath for an orgy with a video camera (remember that, it’ll come in important later) that captures the fatal moment when the titular sexual manoeuvre is performed.

A great feeling of dread is efficiently built up from the moment the guys suggest going back to the boat. After that the situation becomes Lord of the Flies – on a Boat in a quite realistic fashion, and for a long while everything is uneasy and tense but then one of the characters suffers a stupidity leak and after there’s death by flare gun, hand-held propeller, and plausibility is shoved overboard. The makers have quite obviously no idea how to end their film, or even what genre to end it in it. Donkey Punch is a good film that falls apart, but what’s far more interesting is that director Ollie Blackburn shows not a little bit of flair in his long tracking camera movements along the corridors of this opulent yacht.

It does also provide one genuinely great moment between the two surviving girls when trapped in a room one of them makes a suggestion to be met with the riposte: “You want me to run thru a glass door? You do it! You’re heavier…”

3/5

October 26, 2011

Demons Never Die

Robert Sheehan stars in a horror movie that very obviously wants to be a British Scream but just doesn’t have a sharp enough script to achieve that laudable goal.


X Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos is the Drew Barrymore stand-in disembowelled in the cold open. After that there’s a showy credits sequence as the whole cast glance at each other with their names underneath as they gather in an auditorium to hear the police talk about her murder. There are a number of attacks by a masked killer on various teenagers and red herrings flung about the place, but a major difference is the existence of a suicide pact among this group, masterminded by the obnoxious Kenny whose insistence on documenting everything and maintaining strict categorical distinctions seems to make him a version of Jamie Kennedy in Scream. The in-camera analysis of story-structure is confined to the heroine explaining the idea of obstacles keeping apart lovers rather than horror clichés, but then the finale takes place in a large house with a party where the police are keeping watch along with numerous hidden cameras…

Robert Sheehan, currently wowing the West End as Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, is quite good as Archie, effectively winning our sympathy as the hero trying to dismantle the suicide club, while also displaying enough flashes of darkness in doing so to convince us that he might also be the masked serial killer. There also appears to be a moment of homage to his role as Misfits’ clown prince when Jazz shouts at him, “You’re not a f******** superhero Arch, you can’t save me.” Heroine Jenni Jacques initially makes you think that a decade ago Keira Knightley would have landed her part but she doesn’t have Knightley’s hauteur and Jasmine’s physical and emotional transformation during the film is slightly unbelievable. The other supporting players with the exception of Jason Maza’s splenetic homicidal/suicidal Kenny never flesh out their one-dimensional characters.

Writer/director Arjun Rose achieves some praiseworthy effects. Ashley Walters and Reggie Yates have some good comedic moments as the cops conducting the world’s most inept murder inquiry, a split-screen web-conversation is nicely rendered as highly coloured Warholian friezes, a crucial dialogue scene by the Thames achieves an incredibly washed-out look, and there’s a very tense hand-held night-vision escape thru a sinister house. But the script is largely perfunctory, with intriguing ideas, like Jasmine wanting to kill herself before she starts suffering hereditary dissociative identity disorder, and the possibility of Arch’s personality having been psychotically warped by witnessing his father murdering his mother, never being properly explored. The ending is an illogical muddle, including a deeply pointless final frame.

This is basic horror with disappointingly little shlock, but, just as I praised the promise shown by Donkey Punch, I think Arjun Rose has the potential to make a much better film soon.

2/5

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