Porno: Keola Racela Interview

Porno: Keola Racela Interview

Keola Racela could very well be a rising star in the director’s chair. Having directed three short films before (having written two of them), all with very different settings, characters and moods it seems that Racela may be able to lend his artistic eye to anything. Now with the help of Fangoria that enabled Porno to have a virtual theatrical release, Porno is Racela’s feature debut, a horror comedy that harks back to a simpler time where a group of teens unleash a succubus that wants to torment them before dragging dragging them to another dimension.

I had the good fortune to be able to sit down for a chat with Keola over Zoom (as is the style these days) and we talked about his influences, childhood movie trauma and even a shared love of an 80’s Peter Jackson horror movie. Although we had a little trouble deciding what it was called.

Ok to start with my favourite question, how did you get involved in making Porno?



(laughs) The writers of the film (Matt Black and Laurence Vannicelli) are old film school friends of mine and a couple of years after school they moved to LA and asked me if I wanted to make a movie. They had no idea what movie they wanted to make, they were just going to tell people they were making a movie and ask for money. I didn’t even know if the movie was real, but by July 2017 we had something and started shooting through October/November.

Porno is your first feature length movie, was there anything more daunting to work on a feature rather than a short film?

I wasn’t too nervous as I’d directed before, it was just about figuring it all out. I was lucky enough to have worked in the art department on Prince Avalanche with David Gordon Green so I learnt a lot there too. A short film can take five days to shoot and it took 25 days to shoot Porno and it was all shot in one location, with a small crew. We were only allowed to shoot short films in film school, so it was an amazing thing to be a part of because of the bigger process being so unknown. It made me less nervous because I’d already done things before, it was just bigger.

What’s your favourite horror movie?

The Lost Boys, I watched it as a kid and didn’t consider it to be a horror movie. It’s set in a town called Santa Carla, but it was filmed in Santa Cruz where I went to school and I lived near the Santa Cruz boardwalk, so I knew the location in the movie. I also watched a movie called House and it messed me up. It’s a silly movie about Vietnam vet who’s writing his memoirs that stays at a house that he inherited from his aunt and it turns out that the house is alive. It’s a bizarre amalgamation of post-Vietnam war PTSD and horror, but the creature effects were good. I didn’t even get the connection to the Vietnam war when I was a kid. It was a good time for men with big blonde curly afros.

Roger Cobb in House, a blonde curly afro that was the stuff of nightmares

Which directors do you admire?

I think that when it comes to horror there’s John Carpenter, Sam Raimi and when getting back into horror to make Porno it made me go crazy for their work. Dead Alive (Braindead in the UK) directed by Peter Jackson is another one I loved.

Who’s your favourite horror villain?

I think the classics like Freddie Krueger, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhes are the holy trinity. Gary Oldman in Dracula is so great. Large Marge (Alice Nunn) in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure freaked me out when I was a kid as well because it was a big scare in a kids movie and I loved the practical effect. The most amazing villain is Christopher Lloyd in Who Framed Roger Rabbit though.

I think there was a weird shift in the 80’s where films like that used to be aimed at children, but changed to appeal to teenage boys. Watching Ghostbusters now you realise that it’s for adults and they don’t really make those kinds of films for adults anymore. My earliest memory in a theatre was watching E.T. being terrified when they find him all white and dead in the river and you wouldn’t see that in a movie aimed at children today.

Spoilers, Christopher Lloyd traumatising children since 1988

There is one particular scene in the movie that will make every male member of the audience recoil in terror, how important do you think gore is in a horror movie?

It doesn’t have to be, but I think that there’s something very visceral about it. I was excited to be working with visual effects, but torture porn movies don’t really appeal to me like the Saw franchise, so I wanted it to be effective rather than it being the focus of the movie. That scene has quite an effect on an audience and many people react in different ways.

I remember seeing Drive with a big audience and during the scene in an elevator where Ryan Gosling stamps a guy to death, the audience burst into laughter. I think people need to laugh to alleviate the tension, horror and comedy go well together in that respect, like a release valve.

Is building tension or creating jump scares more effective in horror?

I think that the best jump scares come from tension and the best jump scares are the fake outs. It’s the worst thing when they don’t work though and just put in when they’re not needed. The Exorcist III has the best jump scare where a nurse opens a door in a hospital and the audience are expecting a jump scare, there’s silence as she goes in and there’s a few seconds before she comes out. Then at the last second the jump scare happens as the audience see her being followed by a ghostly figure. I’ve always loved that one. Though jump scares can be good, I think that tension is all part of building a dramatic story.

A quiet hospital corridor, what could possibly go wrong?

There are some very religious characters in Porno, do you think there are ways in which religion can have a positive effect on people’s lives?

Absolutely, there’s a core set of values, a sense of community and I have friends and family that grew up religious. Although a lot of the characters in Porno have a lot of faith, Matt Black felt it was important not to just dump on religion and there are progressive ideas outside of religion in the characters that show that they’re not as far gone as to not find some level of acceptance. We wanted to play their experiences for laughs, but also have them find growth that comes from that.

If you were in a horror movie, which character would you be?

I don’t know, I think I’m moderately intelligent and not going to risk running off by myself, I think I’d get pretty far. The ones who get killed are the dumb ones or the ones that run into danger without thinking. It also depends on the villain.

Is there anything you’re working on next that you can talk about? I understand life is in hiatus at the moment, so anything at all you’d like to mention would be fine.

There’s not a lot right now, but I just finished a script with Laurence (Vannicelli), a horror that I’m super excited about. There’s a lot of things I’m excited about right now, I just need to dedicate more time to doing them. It’s a difficult time, but your priority needs to be with people right now. Things have changed right now, but people have learnt to adapt. The drive-in movie theatre nearly died out and right now there’s a kind of boom because of what’s going on. A movie called The Wretched is doing extremely well because people can just sit in their cars and watch a movie and still stay safe, that may have not happened before with a small movie like that.


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Joel found out that he had a talent for absorbing film trivia at a young age. Ever since then he has probably watched more films than the average human being, not because he has no filter but because it’s one of the most enjoyable, fulfilling and enriching experiences that a person can have. He also has a weak spot for bad sci-fi/horror movies because he is a huge geek and doesn’t care who knows it.

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