Film director Onur Tukel is the king of micro-to-low-budget horror and comedic satire films and with his latest movie “Poundcake” you get both. It plays at the Roxy Cinema in NYC this Friday and Sunday, with the director in person at both screenings. Go here for ticket information.
North Carolina-born Tukel has made 13 features, including film festival hits “Summer of Blood,” “Applesauce” and “The Misogynists.” Tukel is part of a group of New York City indie filmmakers who advanced in the first decade and a half of this century and several of them are in the cast of his 2012 feature “Richard’s Wedding”: Josephine Decker (“Shirley”), Lawrence Michael Levine (“Black Bear”), Jennifer Prediger (“Uncle Kent”) and Dustin Guy Defa (this year’s “The Adults.”)
Despite a range of budgets, his films are always rooted in the indie traditions of limited sets, dialogue-driven narratives and weird plots. He especially delights in skewering all sides of the political spectrum, exposing the hypocrisies of both the left and the right.
In “Poundcake” a beefy madman (James “Bull” Smith) is prowling Gotham and brutally murdering people. Local podcasters note that all his victims have been straight males and this leads to speculation about his motives. Some think it’s about time a serial killer targeted those of the politically dominant gender and sexual preference. Others suspect it may be a false flag operation seeking to gain sympathy for priveliged males.
Tukel says he was inspired by films like “Summer Of Sam” (Spike Lee’s use of the 1977 David Berkowitz murders to link to other stories in the film) and “Talk Radio,” Oliver Stone’s 1988 film about a talk radio host who is murdered by a listener. A La Ronde-ish structure (think of Richard Linklater’s “Slacker”) is an entertaining way to contrast the views and lives of a variety of people. Meanwhile, filming podcast segments is an inexpensive way to advance a story.
In one of the film’s funniest side-stories Tukel plays a teacher who asks a gay friend (Randy Gambill, who has appeared in several Tukel films) to perform anal sex on him to prove to his wife that he is not repressed. Elsewhere, an employee in a corporate office fumes about a promotion she believes was based on woke values. Tukel spins a rich and funny tapestry of contemporary mores and attitudes around a genuinely scary slasher film scenario. Once again he has delivered a film as funny as it is critical of lazy thinking. Let’s just hope it doesn’t inspire any copycat killers!
Onur’s Oeuvre: Other Films by Tukel
- “Richard’s Wedding” (2012) Onur attends a wedding in Central Park with hilarious, cringe-worthy results. The dialogue and acting is sparkling in this comedy that features a cast of Tukel’s filmmaking peers.
- “Summer of Blood” (2014) In Tukel’s Tribeca Film Festival hit he plays a loser who becomes a vampire in this irreverent look at contemporary relationships.
- “Catfight” (2016) Three great actresses (Sandra Oh, the late Anne Heche and Alicia Silverstone) lend star power to a story of a vicious rivalry between an artist and a housewife, with war in the Middle East in the background.
- “The Misogynists” (2017) Dylan Baker stars in this dropdead funny account of two friends (one liberal, one a Trumpie) spending a boy’s night out on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.
- “That Cold Dead Look in Your Eyes” (2021) After a mediocre chef’s girlfriend moves out, his obnoxious art photographer father moves in. Most of the dialogue is in French in this paranoid, absurdist tale and it is one of Tukel’s most visually beautiful films.