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…”


February 11, 2017


Alice Lowe, star and co-writer of Sightseers, makes her directorial debut with a misfiring black comedy about a heavily pregnant woman guided by her unborn child.


Ruth (Lowe) is looking for a pet for her son. That’s what she tells a pet store owner, anyway. Just before slitting his throat, at the behest of her daughter; as yet unborn but already very demanding – and rather homicidal. And so it goes. Ruth targets men and women for sudden bloody murder, and nobody sees it coming, because who would suspect a woman in her final trimester to be capable of such violence. But as it becomes clear that Ruth is working her way through a very particular list of transgressors, she starts to have doubts about the wisdom of what she’s doing.

Prevenge is a strange beast indeed. You seem expected to give a standing ovation to Lowe for not only writing, but starring and directing in the semi-improvised romp, while she was herself in her final trimester. But if the resulting film isn’t any good, what does it matter what the circumstances of its production were? Teeth and Jennifer’s Body are the films that came to mind while watching this, and that’s not a compliment. At first it seems Ruth is killing men for making 1970s sitcom double entendres, or for not being interested in having children. Then she murders a woman uninterested in having children and prejudiced against women who are and waste her time faffing about with maternity leave. By the time you understand her motives it’s already too late.

Prevenge is a mean-spirited film, and perfunctorily so. Each victim feels like a vignette, as if Lowe had taken the modus operandi of Kind Hearts & Coronets, but dispensed with the delicious calculation and Alec Guinness’ delightful gallery of twits and bounders.


October 30, 2009

Jennifer’s Body

Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody’s second feature script was expected to be a subversive feminist horror film, but it’s merely standard shlock with good gags.

The opening shot is very Evil Dead but turns out to be the first of many odd structural decisions as it bafflingly leads us into a lengthy spoiler-tastic prologue in a lunatic asylum. The patient is our narrator and heroine Anna ‘Needy’ Lesnicki. Ignore the posters and top billing, this is Amanda Seyfried’s film rather than Megan Fox’s. Seyfried plays a dork (Cody disappointingly conveys this thru her wearing glasses and writing for the school newspaper) who is best friends forever with mean cheerleader Jennifer (Fox). Jennifer bullies Needy into attending a concert by indie band Low Shoulder at the town bar and after an inferno rips thru the venue Needy discovers that her BFF has changed from high school evil to actual evil…

Juno was a good film enlivened by a great lead performance but neither Seyfried nor Fox are in Ellen Page’s league, and the structure of this film is far less logical. There are two incredibly creepy images, of Jennifer smiling at Needy while dripping blood, and crouching spider-like over a dead body in a sequence inter-cut with Needy having sex, but many of the scares are too well signposted. There are some subversive touches – neither lead actually appears naked (despite the marketing of the film around Fox’s hotness) and the link between virginity and survival is reversed – but given the teenage characters’ pop culture reference points surely they’d know that that’s been done before (and better) by Scream. Even the feminist angle is underdeveloped apart from a few good lines. Compared to last year’s Teeth where violently misogynist males got castrated by a rampaging feminist there’s no vicious justice served up here by the choice of male victims.

JK Simmons, almost unrecognisable in a curly wig, is rather good in another subdued outing in a Cody script but supporting honours are stolen by Adam Brody’s cameo. Brody is awesome as the lead singer of indie band Low Shoulder, and this is not just my Seth Cohen obsession speaking. His turn could best be described as a Satanic version of Brandon Flowers. Indeed the bizarre scene where the action stops near the end of the film so that Jennifer can explain to Needy what actually happened near the start of the film between Low Shoulder and Jennifer is the best of the movie as the flashback is pitch-perfect comedy-horror, dripping with blood but eminently quotable. It is baffling why Cody didn’t go with that gory comedy-horror formula for the whole movie rather than just occasionally enliven routine shlock with her flair for bitchy comedic dialogue like this three-way repartee: “She can fly?!” “She’s just hovering, it’s not that impressive” “God, do you have to undercut everything I do?!”

This is fine Hallowe’en fare, with a satisfyingly vindictive super-powered final fight between humans and demons, but Juno fans should lower their expectations.


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