Donkey Punch [Unrated]
Magnolia Home Entertainment // Unrated // $26.98 // April 7, 2009
Review by Tyler Foster | posted April 16, 2009
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Before I can go anywhere with this review: any unsuspecting viewers who don't know what a donkey punch is are advised to hit up Urban Dictionary immediately, and the faint of heart or sexually prudish should probably avoid the movie entirely. Anyone who does know has probably already heard of the movie; if there's anything to be said for the film, it's got a hell of an attention-grabbing title. But a title like Donkey Punch brings a handful of tonal expectations, and unfortunately the movie ignores all of them: it's not exploitative or grindhousey enough to be a brutal joyride, nor is it a horror-comedy, and all that leaves for the film to coast on are style (lots) and innovation (none).

The plot is vintage teen slasher: Tammi (Nichola Burley), Kim (Jaime Winstone) and Lisa (Sian Breckin) are vacationing in Spain, trying to help Tammi get over a broken relationship while having a bit of risque fun. At the very first bar, they meet Marcus (Jay Taylor), Josh (Julian Morris) and Bluey (Tom Burke), who suggest that the whole group return to their yacht for a few drinks. Like screenwriter clockwork, Tammi is reluctant, but the other girls talk her into it, and they quickly find themselves drinking, drugging, and getting intimate, until something terrible and unexpected occurs.

Anyone who's seen a slasher movie in the past twenty years will know that the nice girl is meant to be the hero while anyone who does anything R-rated gets the axe, and the big question is whether this tried and true template is meant to empower or exploit women. It's clear that the intense sexuality behind Donkey Punch is meant to bring another element to the debate, but the characterizations kill any chance at subtext. Tammi's nice-girl arc thuds loudly whenever co-writer/director Olly Blackburn or co-writer David Bloom try to hint at her reluctance, and Kim and Lisa are such unlikable, annoying people that you just don't care whether they live or die. Tammi has an equally ineffective counterpart in Sean (Robert Boulter), who is on the ship when the group arrives, whose presence as the Nice Guy to Tammi's Nice Girl thuds with hers in unison. Frankly, with these two characters and the plot I've already provided, I'd be surprised if you couldn't accurately determine what happens in the entire movie with a little bit of effort.

Much like Shuttle, another recent horror film I reviewed, Donkey Punch contains several bouts of idiocy from the characters that snaps my suspension of disbelief. In the same way that it seems ridiculous that several adult humans can't escape an airport shuttle, I have an equally hard time accepting that nobody tries to simply leap overboard and swim to the closest shore. Sure, they're pretty far out in the middle of nowhere (and I probably missed some sort of exposition about sharks or something), but if the alternative is death, it seems like there's nothing to lose. Poor decisions aren't limited to the heroines either, as Julian Morris's character beocmes increasingly less believable as the movie progresses. Tom Burke's Bluey is far more interesting: he doesn't seem to have as clearly defined a side in the movie's central conflict, and you feel like he could change loyalties at any moment.

Of course, I could have forgiven the movie's flaws if it was any fun, but it mostly isn't. I've already mentioned my dislike for the term "torture porn" in a review, but I can agree that the modern horror movie is less like the haunted-house rollercoasters of the 80's and is instead brutal and cold-blooded. Donkey Punch is no different, delivering reel after reel of depressing twists. As for that style, the movie certainly is slick, with a sun-drenched look that accurately accentuates the movie's indulgent fantasy concept. Horror fans will also appreciate that the movie is both bloody and revealing; moments involving a butterfly knife and a flare gun will satisfy the audience's craving for violence and Donkey Punch's unrated cut contains some of the most graphic nudity I can remember seeing in a modern movie.

All in all, I'm willing to accept that the movie is fairly well made, and anyone who doesn't mind the downer tone and the familiar genre tropes will probably enjoy Donkey Punch on a certain level, but I saw the poster (specifically, a UK poster with a bloody boat motor) and the title and I expected something else. I appreciate the value of a good, shocking title, but a little more of the outrageousness promised by a movie called Donkey Punch would have gone a long way in my book.

Donkey Punch comes in a single-width case with slick cover art that replicates the American poster, and even if I didn't like the movie, the image is certainly representative of the kind of film it is. The back cover is a little overstuffed but cleanly designed, and the disc art is the same as the bottom of the front cover. There is no insert and the menus are uncomplicated.

The Video
Donkey Punch's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation sports a similar look to most of Sony's modern movies: there seems to be a haze of gray over people's skintones that almost borders on posterization. I'm not a huge fan of the look, which often feels a little bit like a contrast problem, but it seems to be intentional. Other than that, the image seems clear, with good detail. While I noticed a few lines, they seem to have been caused by the cinematography and not edge enhancement, and the movie surprisingly doesn't appear to have been shot digitally, so the picture is free of ghosting and motion blur.

The Audio
Donkey Punch is mostly dialogue based, but this Dolby Digital 5.1 English track is rock-solid. As director Olly Blackburn explains in his audio commentary, they went all out, and the surrounds are active and the bass is frequent whenever the boat growls to life. It's not exactly an action movie, but for a movie like this, it's effective. Sadly, the disc does not include English subtitles, which is particularly unfortunate given the number of varying British accents and slang used in the movie. Only Spanish subtitles are included.

The Extras
The basics are covered by this Unrated DVD. An audio commentary by director Olly Blackburn and producer Angus Lamont (not credited on the case or menu). It's a low-key track, and Blackburn and Lamont act as if they've made the edgiest film ever, but the chat is fairly informative. I also have to give a special compliment to Blackburn: the few times he doesn't have anything personally to say, he turns to his co-commentator and asks him questions to avoid silence. What a concept!

Cast Interviews (28:19) are okay. I've seen worse interview reels (the clips included on the US DVD of Big Nothing were excruciating) but the questions asked aren't very interesting. Whether or not you find these engaging will probably be determined by how much you like the actors. Interview With Director Olly Blackburn (13:56) is from the same press junket, and is equally interesting (or not interesting, depending on how you feel). "The Making of Donkey Punch" (17:09) is your standard EPK-style clip reel, and it covers pretty much the same ground as the interviews. Lastly, a reel of deleted scenes (12:42) round out the special features. No commentary is provided, but on-screen text with little tidbits serve as introductions to each scene. Nothing earth-shattering occurs, but it's easily the most interesting video extra on the disc.

Hitting the "6-Shooter Film Series" logo on the Special Features menu takes you to a gallery of trailers for all six films, including Let the Right One In, Special, Timecrimes, Eden Log, Big Man Japan and the theatrical trailer for Donkey Punch. No subtitles are provided for the bonus features.

I don't think Donkey Punch lives up to its salacious title, but even though the movie's unoriginal, my dislike is more a matter of personal taste than any fault of director Olly Blackburn or his cast and crew. Since the DVD package is pretty solid (if basic), I'm going to suggest any interested parties rent it before purchasing.

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