Review by Sean Boelman
Onur Tukel’s slasher comedy Poundcake comes with so many trigger warnings that it’s hard to imagine anyone not being offended, upset, or put off in some way by it. And yet, unlike so many movies that exist to shock the viewer, Tukel has used his shocking premise to create something genuinely thoughtful and meaningful.
The film follows a serial killer who targets straight white men, killing them by raping them to death. It’s a premise that is meant to be provocative and mean-spirited, and it pulls no punches, going so far that it is likely to offend — or at least piss off — a majority of viewers. And yet, this type of rude awakening is exactly what we need to inspire real change and not just performative activism.
However, these horror aspects of the movie only take up a small portion of the runtime (maybe a total of 15 or so minutes). Instead, the film is largely a cringe comedy about the reaction that the community is having to these brutal killings. The more interesting thing about the movie is not that the killings are happening, but the hilariously uncomfortable discussions that people are having about their anxieties.
First and foremost, the film is a takedown of the idea of the “nice guy.” Tukel makes the argument that even the people who put up a nice façade and claim to be progressive have these internal biases. In other words, he’s calling everyone out on their bullshit — and he doesn’t leave himself innocent, poking fun at his own fragile masculinity throughout.
However, that isn’t the only theme that Tukel tackles here. Poundcake is essentially a 90-minute long rant about everything that is wrong with this generation, but it doesn’t feel off-putting. Tukel is legitimately insightful with what he has to say about the shallowness and insecurity of our society, and challenges us to think about how we can defeat our own biases.
Every character in the movie is an unlikable, pretentious asshole, but that’s exactly what it is meant to be. And yet, there is something undeniably entertaining about watching this ragtag bunch of insufferables. The best comparison in recent memory is Bodies Bodies Bodies — another film which brilliantly calls people out for their lack of authenticity.
In terms of execution, the movie clearly shows its low budget. The cinematography, production design, and effects aren’t particularly high-quality. The score also feels like stock music because it’s a bit generic in nature. However, when the script is as intelligent, funny, and engaging as this, the less-than-stellar production values can be forgiven.
Poundcake is one of two movies that have played the festival circuit in recent memory that are virtually unreleasable — and that’s a compliment. Onur Tukel has made a movie that is so incendiary, so disgusting, and (dare I say) so ingenious that the world is not ready to see it. And yet, I can’t wait until they do.
Poundcake screened at the 2023 Make Believe Film Festival, which runs March 23-26 in Seattle, WA.