Film discussion

Throwback 10: Donkey Punch

The definition of the term Donkey Punch as taken from the Simple English Wikipedia: “The donkey punch is an act during sexual intercourse. Some people wrongly think that if a man putting his penis in his partner’s vagina or anus punches their back or head, the vagina and anus will become very tight, giving more pleasure to the man. In fact, no such reflex exists.”

The Donkey Punch. the kind of stupid urban legend that could spread around more than enough naïve students quick enough that several idiots would try it before they realised it was debunked.

In the same way, the likes of 50 Shades of Grey could cause a spike in BDSM equipment by folk eager to tease but ignorant to learn. A Donkey Punch is the type of thing that is easy to imagine a woolly-headed fool would possibly try and you would expect and believe the dire consequences which would occur.
Adult actress Gia Paloma was credited as the first recipient of the act in a 2004 pornographic film Gutter Mouths 30 before JM productions premised a film around the act in 2005. The film, also named Donkey Punch had the performer Alex Devine state that Donkey Punch was the most brutal, depressing, scary scene that she had ever done and commented that she had stopped the scene while it was being filmed due to the pain that she was in.

One wouldn’t be surprised if the act has now been immediate by amateur Ron Jeremys across the hemisphere, perhaps with little disregard for the recipient.
The adult history was not mentioned by Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell, who was somewhat slow to get the outrage machine going after Director Olly Blackburn released his 2008 film Donkey Punch to filmgoers on the 18th June 2008. Platell’s article written around a month later, not only describes it as a “morally bankrupt tale” but also the “vilest movie that she had ever seen”.

Platell is quick to bemoan the liberal establishments which allowed lottery money to fund such a film which “sickened her to the core” and caused her to despair for the future of Britain. Liking the movie universe to real-life cases such as Jessica Davies and Meredith Kercher. Ten years later we now have much of the younger generation despairing about the older generation’s love for a little thing name Brexit and being labelled saboteurs by the same paper no doubt, but I digress. In fact, I’m more perturbed by Donkey Punch being the vilest film she’s seen. I would possibly advise watching a few more movies.

Terms like Donkey Punch and the controversy that surround them are perfect to be fictionalised into motion pictures. The hype is also ready there to be weaponised. I’m sure the folks who watched Donkey Punch perhaps missed Gutter Mouths 30 (Rumour has it that the quality really dipped around Gutter Mouths 18) but I don’t doubt that most would have heard of the term Donkey Punch way before they purchased their ticket. A violent and sexual film idly funded by lottery money? The Daily Mail are angered by it? The bait is easily set. And the media trap works like the well-oiled machine it is. Have you riled up middle England? Then you’re halfway towards success. …or not as the case may be.

Made for a budget of around a million and taking in less than half of that at the box office, Donkey Punch really wasn’t a cultural mover and shaker that it wishes it was. Platell’s point of somewhat depraved art influencing real-life tragedy is still a troublesome trigger of debate, however, the idea that it’s within this film really doesn’t fly. In fact, her article references the likes of Silence of the Lambs as a horror movie of choice, a film which was in itself inspired by real-life cases such as Dr. Alfredo Trevino and Gary M Heidnik. Ten years on, Blackburn’s Donkey Punch perhaps had its kindest words given to it by Craig Line in a 2013 piece for Den of Geek. Unfortunately for this writer, it is not the case and a part of me wishes it was the kind of corrupting influence that Platell claims it was as opposed to the functional blend of Dead Calm and Ibiza Uncovered that the film reveals itself to be.

The film starts in the kind of unsurprising way so many films of its ilk have started before. Three pretty girls have out to the sun-drenched beaches of Mallorca for a holiday full of drunken frolics, away from the “sodding rain” of Leeds. One of the girls; Tammi (Nichola Burley) is doing her best to get over her toxic boyfriend while her two friends (Sian Breckin and Jamie Winstone) have had their personalities removed possibility due to time restraints of the script.

They meet up with a group of craven chancers who sudden claim they have a boat, despite the fact they had just nicked some champers to impress them. Definite red flag. However, the idea of partying on the high seas is hard to resist and the three girls go with the four lads for a night of debauchee because why not.

As the sunset talk moves on to unconventional sex acts and the Donkey Punch rears its head. During a drug-fuelled sex session, disaster occurs when one of the boys decides to perform the act and break the neck of the girl he performs it on. The mood changes drastically and the film becomes a battle of odds between the boys whose pretend plan to be international playboys has now turned into a murder charge and the girls who now realise that they are on international waters with fewer ways to escape any further violence than a gangbanger who’s gone too deep.

While violent, Donkey is less aggressive than previously remembered. What’s more explicit is the film’s sex sequence which leads to the titular act, which considering the number of cast members involved is a well performed and handled sequence which slowly builds to its morose punchline. What makes the film standout, however, is less the explicitness of its violence or sex and more how the intentions of characters switch due to the events that have taken place. Suddenly the likes of the soundtrack which was previously playing Justice’s “We Are Your Friends” takes a darkly humorous turn. The performances, while holding a bit too much of that drama school polish in places are sometimes effective enough to raise an eyebrow.

It’s a pity that the film only really gives a few cast members something to get their teeth into. Before the event, the boys are smarmy rather than charming, while the girls are conceived as rather easily led and vapid. Tom Burke’s Bluey gets all the comedic lines, Nichola Burley gets most of the autonomy as the film’s lead, but the film lacks so much definition in its characters it’s hard to care much.

What you realise is that Donkey Punch is a film sold on its name. It’s director Olly Blackburn talks of trying to “push the genre” in a Time-Out interview with Don’t Look Now’s Nicolas Roeg, and yet unlike Roeg, he does little to push anything further. The film quietly follows horror film conventions while visually the film holds very little in the way of invention. For a debut directional piece, Blackburn does well to make a film set at sea run smoothly, but plot wise the film does very little to grip once all the tropes slip into place. Strangely it’s with this knowledge that makes the likes of Amanda Platell’s piece all the more amusing in a world that has the likes of Anti-Christ (2009), The Human Centipede (2009) and A Serbian Film (2010) in it.

In the same year Donkey Punch was released and troubling the pens of middle England journos, The French released Martyrs, the type of film that does more than linger in the back of one’s mind. However, around this period, there were also a few “tourist trap” horrors which were far more chilling than anything Donkey Punch had to say. Ringan Ledwidge’s little-seen Australian thriller Gone (2007), may not win plaudits, but plays on the Dead Calm/A Knife in the Water dynamic with far more flair than with Donkey Punch. Wolf Creek (2005) was released a few years before Donkey Punch but again set the bar high in terms of sheer tension. The Ruins (2008) has a far more muscular budget than Donkey Punch but has a clearer definition to its characters. Meanwhile, Eli Roth possibly hit one of his career peaks with the blood-soaked Hostel 2 (2007). While divisive to many viewers, Roth at least doesn’t scrimp on his set pieces.

Each of the films mentioned make Donkey Punch feel more than a little tame. Its main conceit is its title and inciting incident. If both were altered, the film would be forgotten even easier. However, Donkey Punch stays afloat based on its title alone. Like Indecent Proposal (1993) it’s a film where one aspect of its premise is strong enough to be a talking point around an otherwise forgettable feature film. Note this article again. I spent a third of it talking about adult films. That aspect alone was more interesting then Donkey Punch and I’ve seen the latter three times.

Are you a fan of Donkey Punch? Let us know.

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