Welcome to Cutting It Close, a monthly column that tackles one of the most popular subgenres in horror: slashers. Alas, there’s a catch—we won’t be discussing the likes of Freddy Krueger, Ghostface, Jason Voorhees, or Michael Myers. No, this series will only look at those slasher movies that aren’t as iconic, yet they can hold their own for various reasons. They may not be top-tier or even popular, but, as the column title suggests, they cut it close.

Commercial horror in the 2000s had a knack for pushing boundaries and testing the audience’s limits. In the case of Donkey Punch, the 2008 British movie tested the waters before diving into a warm sea of blood and iniquity. Following the slasher resurgence, the decade was a veritable celebration of depravity and gore. A common theme in these films was young characters embarking on vacations or leaving otherwise safe places, then finding peril where they least expected it. Olly Blackburn’s movie fits this description to a tee — amorous twenty-somethings spend the day at sea together only to find terror lurks not in the water below but aboard their own ship of lies.

Tammi (Nichola Burley), Kim (Jamie Winestone), and Lisa (Sian Breckin) are vacationing in Mallorca when they meet four eligible men — Marcus (Jay Taylor), Bluey (Tom Burke), and brothers Josh (Julian Morris) and Sean (Robert Boulter). After frolicking on dry land, they all take to the men’s yacht for free love on the open sea. It doesn’t take long before something goes wrong, though. Very wrong. While demonstrating the “donkey punch” maneuver on LisaJosh accidentally kills her . Afraid of what would happen to them, the men immediately dump Lisa‘s body overboard and scare the two remaining women into submission. Kim and Tammi know they have to retrieve the video footage of their friend’s death to prove what happened, but doing so will be no easy feat.

 

 

[Cutting It Close] Lust Turns Fatal in Seafaring Thriller DONKEY PUNCH

 

Tammi is reeling from a bad breakup that her two best mates intend to make her forget about. Then enters Sean and his friends, four sailors on shore leave. The two parties become acquainted at the marina before moving to the boys’ boat. Fear of getting in trouble with their skipper notwithstanding, Sean warily agrees to take the yacht out for the day. One bad decision is certain to lead to another.

After popping some pills and trying to impress each other with their knowledge of sex slang, everyone sheds their clothes and their inhibitions. Younger brother Josh is on the sidelines at first, filming Marcus and Bluey with Kim and Lisa respectively. Elsewhere, Tammi sits this one out with the seemingly sensitive SeanJosh is later tagged in by Bluey, who silently encourages him to perform the movie’s titular act. With one swift blow to Lisa‘s neck in the throes of passion, everything changes forever.

The easygoing, indulgent mood has been destroyed and replaced with a dour one. A very nervous Josh summons his big brother and Tammi to the berth where Lisa‘s still body rests. Marcus and his boys come up with a plan to explain what happened to the authorities (“There’s a girl downstairs with a broken neck and our DNA’s all over her”) while Tammi and Kim mourn under the impression Lisa overdosed. Faced with the idea of going to prison for murder, the men dispose of the body and act as if Lisa fell overboard. Tammi and Kim aren’t willing to go along with the plan, however, and their fates are left hanging in the air until their captors can come to a mutual decision.

 

[Cutting It Close] Lust Turns Fatal in Seafaring Thriller DONKEY PUNCH

 

Unlike other ‘vacations gone horribly wrong’ movies like Hostel and Turistas, the enemy here isn’t sinister caricatures of foreigners. Rather, the horror comes from within as four ordinary men expose their true colors under duress. Life becomes meaningless and women are disposable in this grim story. It’s what Very Bad Things would be if the humor — a device intentionally used to disconnect viewers from the atrocities being committed — was completely sapped away. What’s left is an ugly display of humans at their worst.

 

Donkey Punch spends much of its time sorting through the characters’ feelings following Lisa‘s death. The women are sobbing when they’re not fighting for their lives; the men are quick to compartmentalize everything. The men believe they’re looking at the bigger picture, whereas Tammi and Kim‘s emotional reaction makes them almost appear myopic when they are in fact the most logical of the bunch. To better understand how Olly Blackburn and David Bloom’s script tries to distinguish between the sexes, examine the ladies’ reactions when they take a life or see someone being tortured. In this regard, the movie comes off as a shallow depiction of how men and women each deal with death.

Upon being forced back onto the boat after trying to escape, Tammi and Kim incidentally add to the body count. Be it a flare gun straight to the abdomen, or the propeller from a handy outboard motor, the women turn the tables on their jailers. The men are now the ones in fear of their lives, and there’s a conflicted sense of satisfaction to seeing it play out. The violence borders on wacky, but it adds color to what is really a series of unfortunate events.

 

[Cutting It Close] Lust Turns Fatal in Seafaring Thriller DONKEY PUNCH

 

There’s not much depth to be found among the ship’s crew as the movie is wholly plot-driven. With the death of Lisa during mid coitus, the movie puts it bleak stamp on erotic thrillers. Despite the drama stemming from sex, though, the takeaway is less about carnal punishment and more about identifying the dubious ethics of the perpetrators. There’s also the topic of consent that shouldn’t be overlooked either.

As easy as it is to paddle away from Donkey Punch thinking it has no value, the movie is a unique entry from an era of horror full of garish gore and extremely despicable characters. Although it never amasses the violent quality of its contemporaries, the film hits hard because of its cold approach and bitter execution.

 

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[Cutting It Close] Lust Turns Fatal in Seafaring Thriller DONKEY PUNCH