In the lurid and cleverly crafted thriller "Donkey Punch," seven young partyers fight each other for survival on a luxury yacht when their evening of sex and drugs turns into murderous violence.

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For a movie that boasts a cast of fundamentally repugnant characters and a title the MPAA notes as “an aberrant violent act,” “Donkey Punch” packs a magnetic jolt of fearsome intensity. There’s also a healthy dose of exploitative sleaze that owes much to the American teen horror genre, but this British import often twists its suspense into something a little more clever and a lot more odious.

A photogenic group of blithe young partyers on holiday in Mallorca find themselves on a sleek luxury yacht for a bout of mindless drinking, drugging and, ultimately, sexing under the exquisite glow of a Mediterranean sunset. The four boys have charge of the boat as the hired crew and they’ve picked up three girls at a nightclub. This convincing representation of hookup culture starts playfully enough, but as the chemicals flow the tone darkens and the party turns into an orgy, complete with video camera and an act of sexual brutality.

The mood takes a stylishly sinister turn as the lads’ malevolence reaches ever greater depths and the girls’ terrified response assumes a ruthlessness of its own. The ensuing carnage and treachery plays out as a nimble refinement of the slasher-suspense formula with an extra shot of claustrophobic isolation as the yacht becomes an island of no escape.

The ensemble of unknown actors create a microcosm of selfish entitlement and the venality of modern youth that feels all too real. Unfortunately, the rapid-fire vernacular and thick English dialects are often impenetrable. Jaime Winstone (daughter of the great Ray Winstone) and Tom Burke are especially menacing as the strength and depravity of their characters intensify with every horrible new development.

There are echoes of Roman Polanski’s “Knife in the Water” and the Australian hit “Dead Calm” in director Oliver Blackburn’s intelligent handling of such lurid material. But the midsection falters when a series of contrivances and a too-heavy hand on the Grand Guignol switch threaten an otherwise steady course.

Ted Fry: tedfry@hotmail.com