Given the premise – a hulking, gimp-masked, chain-wielding serial killer is raping straight white men to death in New York City – Poundcake is not the film you expect … unless you’ve been following the oeuvre of the always-interesting, daring and distinctive writer-director Onur Tukel, a master of deadpan black humour. His highest profile film is the Sandra Oh-Anne Heche shaggy dog story Catfight, but I also recommend the vampire movie Summer of Blood, Applesauce, Black Magic for White Boys and Scenes from an Empty Church – Tukel often takes horror or horror-adjacent ideas and then presents Altman-like cross-sections of multicultural New York characteristically ignoring them while getting on with their own obsessions.
The joke is that a category of folks who usually get away with everything are victimised for once, and nobody quite wants to admit they don’t really care when CEOs, businessmen, personal trainers, bartenders, preppy fiances and genially failed stand-up comedians get bummed to death by a slob who might be the incarnation of all the unconscious desires of the oppressed (when Poundcake is around, electrical devices start malfunctioning – so no one can call for help) but is also kind of pathetic himself. Between the tactfully-filmed murders we get chatter from a series of not-very-caricatured podcasts, sketches of NYC situations (jostling for a promotion to replace a murdered manager, African-American Dad Ron Brice worrying his gay son puts the gay community ahead of the black community, Turkish-American schlub Tukel wanting to experiment with anal sex but being typically kidnd of a dick about it) and some perceptive looks at the specific hypocrisies of a whole range of not-straight, not-white and even not-male New Yorkers in this situation (white women come off especially poorly).
Poundcake refrains from suspense-horror and the climax depends on a literalisation of New Agey ‘love conquers all’ which is plainly intended as satirically as everything else. It’s uncomfortable, funny and also kind of sweet – which has always been the redemptive side of Tukel’s films.