Sunday, August 5, 2012

I'd Rather Be On a Haunted Boat

Hey! Here’s a great idea: let’s make a movie about slightly better than average looking wealthy Caucasian 20something assholes doing terrible things to each other. Everybody LOVES mildly attractive rich white kids being awful to fellow mildly attractive rich white kids, right?!

Is this thing on?

Quick Plot: Two vice-happy young British women take their just-cheated-on friend out for a day of drinking on the Spanish coast. At a bar, they meet a quartet of guys with access to a luxury yacht. With that comes videotaped sex, crystal meth, stolen champagne, inaudible but still inane (when it’s audible) conversations, and swimming. Thankfully, the ladies knew well enough to pack their bikinis inside their designer bags. Otherwise, just IMAGINE how awful the day would be!

Before long, 5 out of the 7 passengers are embarking upon group sex. The youngest preppy is eager to impress his older friends and decides to cap off his first time with the titular specialty move, discussed earlier in riveting flirt talk. Because even nameless blonds you’re having sex with are human, the girl dies and everyone else starts shouting things.

From there, Donkey Punch gets a tad more interesting as the boys plot a cover-up, much to the shocked protest of the remaining females. Cellular coverage wanes, boat keys are lost, video evidence rotates hands, knives stab, and rich white kid turns on rich white kid with more venom than a snake on a plane.

Made on a budget somewhere around South Africa, Donkey Punch is filmed, acted, and written with full competence. The gorgeous blue water looks great with well-toned bodies swimming through it, and the bouts of violence are executed effectively without shyness or digital shortcuts. In other words, Haunted Boat this ain’t.

Side note: have you watched Haunted Boat yet? Please do. You really won’t be disappointed in its adorable awfulness.

But back to Donkey Punch, the film that makes you kind of want to see very character die via donkey punch. Therein lies the main issue: these kids suck. Perhaps that’s the point—I can’t believe the actors or script are trying to get you on their side—but unlike, say, the Hostel films, there doesn’t seem to be any point to their sucking. If there’s satire, I don’t get it. And I’m the person who praised Starship Troopers as the year’s smartest film back when I was a 10th grader in 1997!

I could fall back on the whole ‘this movie wasn’t made for me’ defense, but what does that really mean? If a movie about misogynist rich guys treating women like shark bait was made for younger or more male audience, then it’s just, well, kind of a misogynist film. There’s little humor or commentary to be found once the blood starts spilling, and while (MINOR SPOILER) all the bad guys DO suffer, the innocent don’t exactly get a weekend in the Bahamas. So abusing women is a punishable offense, but so, apparently, is discouraging such behavior.

I’m not saying Donkey Punch needed to be a treatise on male/female relationships, but I guess I’m just completely baffled by what the point of specifically making a film like this without ever pausing to consider its implications could be. At times like these, I often go back to the brilliant and sometimes misunderstood Deadgirl, a film that shares this type of shocking premise (teens tie down a beautiful zombie for nonconsensual sex) as an example of how you approach this kind of subject matter. Reading the DVD description of Deadgirl might be nauseating, but when you watch the film, you see how the filmmakers were using a dangerous, taboo plotline to explore something much deeper.

Donkey Punch takes the risk of calling itself Donkey Punch and, you know, killing a woman via donkey punch and basically does little to nothing with it but make a mediocre horror movie. True, we’re never rooting for the villainous men, but that’s only because they’re mildly more unlikable than the ditzy women. If the film gave us amazingly terrifying scares or dark and daring comedy (like the surprisingly sly Troma release, The Taint) at least, you know, there’d be some justification to its premise. Instead, it hovers on a strange line, being too afraid to go for full exploitation and just not smart enough to make a point.

High Points
As I said earlier, the violence is handled quite well. While the character choices don’t always work, the actual execution of stabbings, drownings, flamings, and shreddings comes off believably and extremely gross

Low Points
Here’s how I knew I would not care much for Donkey Punch: in the opening shot, our lead female is seen shaving her armpits in a bathroom without a touch of cream, soap, or water. Now I reckon’ this was done for the shock factor of beginning the film with a sexy shot of a bloody armpit, but no woman with a passing understanding of hygiene would just carelessly rub a razor into her skin when there’s a sink and, presumably, plenty of liquids right in front of her. It’s a small thing to harp on, and yet it instantly told me that this was a movie made by men who never thought to get second opinions on things only women do

Lessons Learned: The School of the Obvious Edition
Don’t do meth with strangers in the middle of the ocean

Don’t get on a boat with strangers in the middle of the ocean

Teasing a girl about rape just after your pal killed her friend during sex isn’t a turn on

A guy who doesn’t understand that women are supposed to enjoy sex is probably not the ideal sexual partner

Don’t have sex with the guy you just met who doesn’t understand that women are supposed to enjoy sex

Your slutty friend probably slept with your cheating ex-boyfriend

Brunettes are mildly more intelligent than blonds

Everyone in their 20s that looks decent in a bathing suit is awful and deserves to die

The Winning Line
“You want me to run through a glass door? Babe…you’re heavier”
Says one girl to her already low self-esteem carrying friend. It’s one of the rare genuinely clever lines that I could hear, and it made me wish Donkey Punch had a better sense of humor about its shallow characters

I was curious to see if Donkey Punch warranted its new cult reputation. After watching the film, the answer is essentially an eye roll. Technically, it’s well-made enough and shows that first-time director Olly Blackburn can easily put together a good-looking genre film. I can’t really comment on the script because I could only make out every other word, but it ultimately seems to be a passable straight-to-Netflix caliber bout of violence with a catchy title and nothing else.

In other words, no sharks. No albinos. No gnomes.

Isn't it time you boarded a Haunted Boat?


  1. Sounds mediocre.

    I have a Game of Thrones question. I'm currently reading AGOT, about 70 pages in, and I'm not sure if I want to soldier through and keep reading. It's not that I don't like it, but this epic fantasy-ish type genre really isn't my thing. Do you think I should keep reading and finish it, and I'll probably think it awesome and immediately read the sequels, or skip it?

  2. I think you should definitely try to finish out the first book and see how you feel after that. The book does start a little slow, but once you get to know who's who, I think it becomes incredibly involving. You *might* even want to watch a few episodes of the series, just to help clear up who's who. It actually helps a lot.

  3. Ok, I'll soldier through, and hope that Viserys Targanean (I'm not far enough into the book to know the right spelling on that yet!) dies a slow and horrible death! haha! (and I guess I'll be feeling the same about Joffrey Lannister sooner or later as well)

  4. While I don't want to spoil anything, please be assured that by the halfway point of Book 1, you will be VERY satisfied on one of those counts.