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The Devil Made Me Do It
by Georgina Spelvin
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
. "Donkey Punch"

In the typical horror formulation, a group of young people are brought into a remote or locked-in place where some kind of demon--supernatural or just wacko--lies in wait. This pays off as an easy way to justify blood and gore, shock and terror, the slash and the deep incision. Cleverness in the methods to produce these generic effects is where the horror hack's pride resides, and real human behavior is just an inconvenient drag on the payload. But, for some of us, that's what makes the difference between shlock and style.

"Donkey Punch" incorporates a bit of both.

Which is almost too much to expect given that the group of victims this time consists of three well-put-together girl-buddies vacationing on the sands of Mallorca, Kim (Jaime Winstone), Tammi (Nichola Burley) and Lisa (Sian Breckin) hooking up with a quartet of male hunks Sean (Robert Boulter), Bluey (Tom Burke) and Josh (Julian Morris), who crew on a large yacht (the fourth guy is Marcus (Jay Taylor) the engineer, who is tending the vessel, docked nearby).

So, of course, one thing leads to another, which is that they board the boat, set out for deeper waters so that they can play music loud and swim while they pair off. The fourth crewmember makes it uneven, but that's not yet a problem since they're mostly amusing themselves with jokes and stories, which take on a more and more seductive content.

One anecdotal legend cited is the one about the donkey punch, in which the male orgasm is enhanced by punching the girl at a critical coital moment. Talked out and with something more physical in mind, the party repairs to the master bedroom for a scene out of a quality porno movie. Until the odd man out takes his turn with Lucy. He decides to try the Donkey Punch on her, only it proves fatal. He has killed her. The vacation is over. Let the horrors begin.

In a long night of steadily diminishing hope of survival, the discussion turns to the avoidance of a prison term--an objective on which all aboard more or less conspires to. Every action from then on produces more tragedy, more guilt, more fracturing of a unified approach and less chance that punishment might reasonably be avoided. Eventually, the only question is who will survive the boatride.

Happily, director Oliver Blackburn goes to pains to make this a carefully thought out process of degradation that maintains some modicum of recognizable human behavior, albeit desperate and in a horror context. For those to whom this value doesn't amount to much, just imagine the usual summary descent into illogic.

By sticking as closely as he does to at least possible behavior and the motivation of self-preservation when it's clearly threatened, Blackburn takes a set of characters whose worst crimes up until now have (probably) been the use of drugs and tests how far they will go when confronted with an accidental death that could mean prison time. It's a pile-on of misjudgement that takes them into the mad whirlpool of group (not gripping) self destruction. If it didn't become so relentlessly gory and single-minded you might want to pat him and his co-writer David Bloom, on the back for avoiding cliches to the extent genre formula allows.

Like water zombies waiting their turn in the rescue boat.

In the absence of which, Blackburn and his ensemble of reasonably good actors earn a slightly soggy cigar. But critical acclaim? Not so much.

Can we go home now?

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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