DVD REVIEW - NIGHT OF THE VIRGIN ****
Directed by Roberto San Sebastian. Starring Javier Bodalo, Miriam Martin, Victor Amilibia, Ignatius Farray, Rocio Suarez. Spain 2016 Certificate: 18 116 mins
Released by Matchbox Films on DVD / On Demand on April 2nd 2018
The feature film directorial debut for Roberto San Sebastian is a 21st century splatter movie of escalating lunacy, cheerfully invoking and subverting an assortment of familiar mainstream genre tropes. At heart, it’s a wilfully perverse spin on the age-old American teen comedy premise of the hopeless male protagonist on a desperate, slapstick-laden (here splatstick-laden) mission to lose his virginity (complete with crude text-based exchanges with his equally lame, horny mates). It’s also a nightmarishly claustrophobic, uncomfortably hilarious contemporary spin on the common 80’s trope of the ordinary guy who unwittingly wanders into a single night of urban chaos – seen in MIRACLE MILE, INTO THE NIGHT and AFTER HOURS. And, at no extra charge, it’s a particularly gonzo gender reversal of the familiar female-virgin-sacrifice horror plot.
NIGHT OF THE VIRGIN is admittedly on the lengthy side at two hours : everything (including the prologue setting the New Year’s Eve backdrop via a countdown TV show) is over-extended, though in a fashion that serves to heighten the intensity of the overall experience. The hopeless, gawky virgin in question is sweaty, rat-faced Javier Bodalo (one of the pre-pubescent cast in Del Toro’s THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE), who looks suitably uneasy in a tux and is spending the last night of the year making failed moves on a succession of hotties, succeeding only in getting puked on. His luck seems on the turn when he catches the eye of a middle-aged woman (Miriam Martin), ominously named “Medea”, who lures him back to her apartment. Even this apparent invitation to guaranteed carnal success earns him the mockery of his peers (and the label “granny fucker”), but his greater concerns are discovering her place is overrun with cockroaches, getting verbally abused by her inventively profane, unseen boyfriend on the other side of the door, and discovering that she keeps her menstrual blood in a pot in the bathroom.
Ultimately a protracted metaphor for the adolescent male terror of sex (or a lament about how tough it is to find a virgin in this day and age), with the accompanying terrors of unwanted pregnancy and disease, this largely two-handed descent into Takashi Miike-levels of madness is wittily set against the constant, pulsing beat and heckling neighbours of the biggest party night of the year. Even when all breaks (loudly) loose for our protagonist, everyone is too busy getting wasted, screwing - or complaining about interruptions to their night of getting wasted and screwing – to care.
Bodalo’s sustains an astonishing pitch of borderline hysteria throughout as his plight (d)evolves from a desperate craving for seemingly unobtainable sex to recoiling in horror from violent sexual demands (“I want your dick!” is a recurring line) that he doesn’t want. He ends up, understandably, sobbing the hitherto unheard of line “No, no…not more sex!”. Director Sebastian – employing an assortment of inventive angles and viewpoints to make the restricted setting an advantage - takes the standard U.S. teen comedy obsession with bodily fluid gags to its zenith, showering the screen with cum, used condoms, projectile blood and shit, mobile phones inserted into vaginas…In case we were in any doubt, his anything-goes approach is confirmed early on by a graphic masturbation scene climaxing with an accidental ejaculation over a collection of deformed baby photographs.
Complete with unrestrained performances and the occasional literal wink to the camera, the movie is working with Troma-style material, but the effect is truly disarming rather than self consciously grating. The centrepiece is a genuinely painful, ultra-messy “birth” sequence that, in a genre classically dominated by female screams, echoes the never-surpassed intensity of the finale of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE with its singular focus on the excruciating screaming ordeal of the (male)protagonist. The last half-hour is a sustained, splatter-soaked ordeal that you won’t easily forget, and it includes the vaginal equivalent of that moment in THE LOST WORLD JURASSIC PARK in which a mobile phone rings from a pile of dino-dung.
Martin is remarkably menacing, particularly under these extreme circumstances, as the predatory older woman, finding depth and subtle comic beats in a role that could have merely been a misogynistic grotesque hag. Bodalo, meanwhile, suffers like perhaps no other young male in horror history – the film ending on an appropriately gibbering note via a lingering LONG GOOD FRIDAY-style extended final shot. For maximum entertainment value, watch with your local branch of the W.I.
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