Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Screen Alert - Donkey Punch (written by Oliver Blackburn & David Bloom)

Donkey Punch is a smart movie with an even smarter title. The moniker is outlandish enough that it sticks with you; I don't remember where I first read about the movie, but its name and premise stuck with me long enough that I was excited to see it opening here in NYC.

The title, of course, refers to a raunchy, ridiculous and ultimately fake sexual maneuver. (If you don't know what it is, ask a seventh grader to describe it to you.) The title is perfectly naughty and straight forward - you're not going to forget it.

The plot itself is simple. Three girls are on holiday when they meet three guys that are looking to party. Long story short: the guys get the girls onto the yacht they crew, get 'em out to sea, load up on drugs, and then one receives a fatal donkey punch. THIS is where the plot thickens.

The sexy-kids-end-up-with-a-dead-body is becoming a common subgenre in the horror section, but Donkey Punch manages to handle it differently. The kids react BELIEVABLY to the accidental death ("What do we do??" "Our whole lives are ahead of us!") and the tension perfectly builds through their interactions when their methods of resolving the situation are at-odds. None of the characters know each other that well, and everyone must look out for their own best interests. This was where the film excelled - in its relatively slow build to further bloodshed. When the film inevitably takes its horror turn in the later half, it's at least handled creatively. Filmseekers looking for a good thriller/suspense flick have a lot to be happy about here. Horror fans should stick around for the end - you won't be disappointed.

Blackburn's past as a music video director absolutely shines through in Donkey Punch; one of the most outstanding aspects of the film is its use of sound and music. The soundtrack is great, properly setting the tone of the scene with each piece of music. Particular standouts are the drug scenes at the beginning of the film - they're properly otherworldly and disorienting. The music pulses coldly and electronically. The soundtrack reminds me of Trainspotting's, but Donkey Punch is able to convey that messed-up feeling without resorting to New Order and ceiling-crawling babies.

I've seen a lot of critics draw comparisons between this film and Polanski's Knife In the Water - which I think is apt, and not just because they both take place on boats. They're both claustrophobic little thrillers well worth the price of admission.

**** out of *****.