Keola Racela’s feature film debut Porno pits a group of innocent Christian teenagers against an evil unleashed in their local movie theatre after watching a mysterious old film. Porno is absolutely hilarious, goofy, gory fun and was easily one of the biggest highlights of the 2019 Overlook Film Festival. You can read our full review of the film HERE.

We spoke with Keola Racela shortly after Overlook. Since that time Porno has been announced as an official selection of the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival where it will be celebrating it’s Canadian Premiere Saturday, July 13. Porno is a perfect midnight movie and absolutely must be seen with a crowd. Full details and tickets can be found HERE.

 

“[…]the idea is that these kids who are super innocent and don’t know anything about pornography, are watching this satanist, ritualistic film and they’re just like, ‘Well, I guess this is the pornography’.”

 

Jonathan Dehaan for Nightmare on Film Street: How was Overlook for you guys?

Keola Racela: It was great. It was really great. It was so much fun. You know, we premiered at [SXSW]- we didn’t even play in the midnight section, we played in competition which we were very surprised by but obviously very honored. We were just counting on playing in the midnight section, and so I think people went in not knowing really what to expect, especially in the first screening, but then a buzz started to happen around the film, and then people were lined up and [they] kind of knew what they were getting into. But at Overlook, it felt like people go there for that kind of thing, and it just felt like we were in our element there which was a lot of fun.

NOFS: That’s great. Everybody at Overlook had great things to say about it and a few people I knew that were covering SXSW were happy to hear everybody talking about it because they were saying that it wasn’t getting as much attention there. 

KR: Yeah, it was interesting. You know, we went to the award screening, it was just like, “….but we’re not gonna win any of these awards” {laughs}. It’s definitely a prestige thing to play in competition. Maybe we were out of place or something.

NOFS: Part of it has to be how good the movie looks. I was expecting a really funny, midnight movie and I couldn’t believe how good your cinematography was. Unfortunately, I don’t have his name in front of me right now but how did you get in contact with your cinematographer?

 

KR: Yeah, his name is JP. So basically, the majority of the people that worked on this, we all met in film school, including our cinematographer who, his name is John Wakayama Carey, he goes by JP. At Columbia, there are three tracks. You can focus on directing, screenwriting, or producing, and he came into the program as a producer but he just wanted to be a cinematographer. I don’t think he’d really shot anything outside of some snowboarding videos and stuff with his friends before film school, and then he just shot everybody’s stuff, and through the course of the program just became an incredible cinematographer. He shot both of the films that I made at Columbia so there was no question that he should shoot the feature. 

 

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NOFS: Were your shorts also horror comedies?

KR: No, not at all. Although I was actually in the middle of writing a horror comedy feature script in a feature screenwriting class when I started doing my first short there. The first short that I made is set in 1930’s Shanghai and it’s kind of like a noir film, which we shot on a backlot in Shanghai. So definitely not a horror film or a comedy. 

NOFS: It sounds amazing though. 

KR: Yeah, it was an amazing opportunity and the producer I worked with, a classmate of mine- I was writing this movie which is a cross between, like, I love the film Re-Animator and I also love the TV show Friday Night Lights. So it was about zombie football players, and she approached me in class and she was just like “So, are you just going to do this wierd funny stuff? Are you interested in making serious movies?” I have a very wide-ranging taste in films […] and a whole host of other things. When she was like “Do you want to make a film in China?” I was like, “Definitely”. That’s kind of how that came about, and my other film is about two girls defecting from North Korea. Now, I mean- it’s a pretty tense genre film but not a horror film, and also not a comedy. They’re just different kinds of films. 

 

NOFS: So was [Porno] a story you had or was this something your writers Matt [Black] & Laurence [Vannicelli] approached you with. 

KR: They were working with another person from Colombia, who was a producer, and our producer Chris who- He knew some finance people, and they were just like, ” Listen, if you can make a very low budget film in this window, we have money you can use to do that. Do you have an idea?” And Matt & Laurence were like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah- we have an idea for sure”. So they called me and they were like, “Do you want to make a movie?” and I was like “Yeah, what’s the movie?” and they were like, “We don’t know!”The thing is, because they’re writing partners, they have a whole bank of ideas that they came up with. They had an idea for making a film about a haunted porno theater in Times Square when Rudy Giuliani was cleaning up New York and closing all those theaters down in Times Square, and so we kind of took that and heavily adapted it.

NOFS: I couldn’t imagine seeing these Christian kids in Times Square.

 

KR: No, no, totally. I mean, obviously, because the budget is low we couldn’t shoot in period New York. So we’re like- okay, so it’s gonna take place in the movie theater, it’s gonna be in a small town and you know, it all kind of grew out of there.

NOFS: So did you guys actually shoot in a revival house movie theater?

KR: We shot a in a theatre in Greenport Long Island. We wrote the film in LA, I’m from Southern California, so I was like, we’ll just shoot it in Southern California. The town I grew up in a tiny town and it has one of these movie theaters that was just a single screen. It’s where I saw every movie as a kid. I saw Pulp Fiction there, I saw Die Hard 3 there. I was like, we should find a small theater like this. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a theater that was not decrepit enough that we’d have to reconstitute the interior of it, because we were working on a budget, but we also had to find a few that would accommodate us because we couldn’t work in a working movie theater. So what we were able to do was find a movie theater that was seasonal. It’s in Greenport which is like a seasonal town. Everybody goes out for the summer, it the very tip of Long Island, so during the winter the town is mostly empty in the movie theater is shut down. That’s how we ended up there, and the theater owner was so accommodating. He found it very fun that we were going to shot a movie there and he let us do whatever we wanted. So it was a kind of perfect scenario. 

 

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NOFS: So with the title Porno, you definitely know what you’re going into when we see it but in your mind, do you think these kids are actually watching an old porno or is it just pornography for those characters? It’s not a quote/unquote Porno, right?

KR: No, absolutely not. The inspiration for that film, the film within the film, is Kenneth Anger. I don’t know if you’re familiar with his films- He’s a queer filmmaker from the 50s/60s/70s, he made a movie called Scorpio Rising. But you know, he’s a Satanist and he made these very strange films. We were looking at films like Invocation of My Demon Brother, The Inauguration of The Pleasure Dome. They’re just very strange kind of experimental Satanist films, and so, the idea is that these kids who are super innocent and don’t know anything about pornography, are watching this satanist, ritualistic film and they’re just like, “Well, I guess this is the pornography”. I mean, it also comes from how pornography was talked about, especially in very conservative Christian communities, it’s very demonizing and tied to the devil and all these things. So, the idea that they would watch pornography and that it would be Satanic is a very funny idea and also something that they’d all be like “Oh yeah, it’s all Satanic”.

NOFS: So, I’ve been pretty good about not spoiling a very, very funny part in the movie involving some…practical effects. And they go and they look great, by the way. Talk to me about your special effects team.

KR: It’s just these two guys. Actually- a classmate of ours had made this body horror film at Columbia and I don’t know how he found these guys who were so young, like definitely not even 21, but so young and so incredibly skilled at doing all these practical effects. In that film, this woman believes she has these things in her body and so she cuts open her stomach, digs in there and pulls that shit out. He made it look so amazing that everybody was like, ‘what the fuck-this guy’s incredible”. So when we were gonna do this movie I was like man, we gotta find those guys because the budget is low and so what you’re hoping for when you’re working on a small budget is you’re finding people in the same position you are, like people who are just starting out, but with a lot of ambition, a lot a lot of talent that people have not yet experienced yet.

So when I sought out this guy, he had just started this company with another friend and they were totally on board. We went into their studio and they had a big severed leg laying out on a table. I was like “What the fuck-” cause it looked so real and so gross. And they were pointing out how they’d put it every single hair into the leg. And I was just like, “What? Why do you have this?” and they were like “We made this leg for Sicario 2”. They had hired them just to make that one leg. Again, they were very young but they are definitely very skilled. We were asking them to make some weird stuff and they were very into it.

 

“[…] the amount of screaming that happened was so funny. I was dying. I was sitting next to the writers and we were laughing hysterically.

 

NOFS: That’s so cool. 

KR: Yeah, they were like “the reference photos we have to google are not cool” though. […] I mean, I was writing a script about motorcycle rider stuff and so I just wanted to look up what accidents look like but it fucks me up so much. I don’t know how people can really look at that kind of stuff. […] It’s funny, because I forgot what that scene you’re referring to was like until we premiered the film. You know, I edited the film and so I’ve just been staring at it over and over, and we hadn’t watched it in a crowd larger than 5 people and our premiere was like 300 people and- I knew there would be some sort of reaction but I didn’t know quite what it would be, and the amount of screaming that happened was so funny. I was dying. I was sitting next to the writers and we were laughing hysterically because people were screaming.

NOFS: I can’t wait for other people to see the film. I want to wanna be able to talk to more people about it. Do you have any other future dates on the festival circuit?

 

KR: Nothing announced yet so I can’t really say anything but yeah, we definitely have some other genre film festivals coming up. Thankfully, with SXSW and Overlook people are asking to see the movie. We’re still sending our stuff around, sending out screener, so hopefully a film festival near you. 

 

UPDATE! Keola Racela’s Porno will celebrate its Canadian Premiere July 14, at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival as part of the festival’s opening weekend. Full details and tickets can be found on the Fantasia Festival website HERE. The festival kicks off July 11! Let us know which movie you’re most excited to see over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!

 

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