AKA LA NOCHE DEL VIRGEN
AVAILABLE ON DVD: NOW, from Matchbox Films
RUNNING TIME: 112 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
It’s New Years Eve and 20-year old Nico is determined to lose his virginity. After numerous failed attempts at wooing a one night stand, he finally seems to get lucky when, just after midnight, he catches the eye of a middle-aged woman ominously named Medea who lures him back to her apartment – but how long is his desperation to get laid going to let him overlook certain things like the cockroaches overrunning the place, the abusive ex-boyfriend on the other side of the door, and the pot of menstrual blood in the bathroom.…
I guess I’m far more of a “more” than a “less” guy – I’ve lost count of the number of reviews I’ve done recently in which I say that a film looks like it’s been cut down to its detriment, and with films I like the phrase “too much of a good thing” doesn’t tend to be in my vocabulary very often. However, The Night Of The Virgin is definitely one film that would benefit greatly from being shortened by around half an hour, resulting in a much punchier offering. Of course movies that take their time can be good too – in fact I like them increasingly as I get older – but Roberto San Sebastian’s directorial debut often looks like they just shot the rough cut, with the effect of much of its material weakened by repetition and being overly drawn out. And yet this opening paragraph might give a slightly false impression of the product in question, which is still a fairly impressive debut feature especially if you consider that it was apparently shot for less than 60,000$. It contains plenty for horror fans to enjoy, as long as they’re of the patient type, even if it’s really just a darker variant on your archetypal American raunch comedy about teenage boys desperate to get laid with supposedly hilarious results. There were times whilst watching it that I wondered if it was an ironic commentary on the way young guys out on the pull just use the opposite sex as meat [though I’ve always disliked it when a film makes that point considering that females can be just as bad] but on reflection I don’t think that San Sebastian and screenwriter Guillermo Guerrero were thinking of commenting on anything – they just wanted to have fun with a grim, slow-building story with humorous aspects, laced with gross out chuckles.
A good example of the way that some tightening would have considerably helped the film can be found right at the beginning in which a small TV set gradually getting bigger surrounded by nothing but black has two presenters talking through the lead-up to New Year’s Day – and God do they go on, including the man breaking the news that his co-presenter and also partner is pregnant. Replete with a reference to Rosemary’s Baby, the revelation of this news was no doubt intended as an ironic counterpoint to stuff that happens later on in the film, but there’s a lot of pointless stuff too, even the presenters complaining about the script they’ve had to read from and eventually badly making it up as they go along – though I did chuckle at them going on about the sphere of the town clock tower, a sphere which happens to be just like the sphere of nearly every other clock. On the other hand I’m not sure there’s many who would find them wishing that George Michael, David Bowie and Prince won’t die next year to be funny, it’s probably still too soon for most though I couldn’t help smiling at the gall of it. Anyway, the TV is revealed to be in a night club, and unfortunately this is one of those clubs where it in no way looks like the people dancing onscreen are dancing to the music that we actually hear – for goodness sake hardly anybody seems to be dancing in time. Of course scenes of this nature do tend to be shot with different music then what turns up on the soundtrack, but often a decent attempt is made to conceal this. Chalk it down to inexperience I guess.
Our hero is a virtually buck toothed innocent whom it’s hard not to warm too immediately. After all, he’s not touching up those pretty girls he wants to cop off with, he’s just pretending to be a really groovy dancer. What a shame that one of then pukes up all over his shoe, setting off a running joke throughout the film in which he will be constantly subjected to indignities. Reduced to sitting down watching the dancers, Nico eventually attracts the attention of mysterious older woman Medea, and obviously not being boned up on Greek mythology he finally thinks he’s in luck and is happy to ignore the comments of his mates, things like “grannyf*****” even when Medea’s place turns out to be, to put it mildly, a “s***hole”, especially the bathroom which really is rancid and I’ve been in some horrifying bathrooms in my time. She warns Nico not to step on the cockroaches because it’s bad luck to do so – but of course he immediately does just that which means that Medea is partly right when she says it’s his fault much later on when all this crazy stuff has happened to him. Not much does happen for a while before, though there’s certainly an odd tension between the two characters which is enhanced by nice positioning of them in many shots. Medea seems to have a thing about Nepal, and tells of a Nepalese legend about a god who impregnated a peasant woman, then went mad and banished the child after disfiguring its face when the mother died in childbirth. He also said that she could never have a child of her own, and the script perhaps sets out too much here, though quite a bit actually remains vague by the end. You’ll have some questions, that’s for sure.
After Medea suddenly crashes out while in the midst of pleasuring Nico with her hand, and he decides to finish the job in front of some photographs [big mistake], he finally decides to leave, but there’s the matter of the ex constantly banging on the door shouting abuse at him, and as for his phone – well, let’s just say that if you’ve ever wanted to see a ruder version of one of the funnier moments of The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2, then you’re watching the right film. I won’t tell much more of the story, but I will tell you that there is a birthing scene, and it’s possibly the most grueling one I’ve ever seen in a film, which is certainly a notable achievement especially when you think you’ve seen it all. I personally found it genuinely unpleasant, though am happy to give credit to San Sebastian here for achieving what he probably intended and really making me feel sick, and the length of the scene certainly adds to its effect. On the other hand the almost constant shouting and swearing of the ex during the middle section soon became tiresome for me and really could have been heavily trimmed. He’s a character who you’re asked to change your opinion about several times, as indeed is Medea. Miriam Martin remains quite beguilingly mysterious in the latter part.
The emphasis is often on liquids going everywhere -blood, vomit, something else I probably don’t need to mention. One moment takes the “blood painting the walls” bit in Tenebrae to ridiculous extremes. The vomit looked to me like the only CGI effect used, and it’s probably the worst effect in the film. The baby, much like that horrid thing in To The Devil A Daughter that I reviewed not that long ago, manages to be both amusing and unsettling, and seems to be rendered with pretty good puppetry. There’s also a briefly seen prosthetic penis. Visually things tend to be pretty drab, the apartment in which most of the film is set lit by a sickly yellow except for the bathroom which has blue-ish lighting. Some bits are just too dark to make out some details properly, but San Sebastian also provides things like a bit of split screen and some nice blurry POV during being knocked out to help bring some visual style to the proceedings. He favours quite long takes, so much so that when quick cuts are suddenly used – like when a phone keeps on ringing – they stand out. Said phone, by the way, possibly causes the biggest laugh when it becomes the next in a long line of things to cause Nico harm. His complete inability to catch a break may be funny, but actor Javier Bodalo makes sure that he sells the moments in which Nico has to be in great distress or terror. The final lingering shot, perhaps inspired by the unforgettable close to The Long Good Friday, is not one that you will forget in a hurry, though the script doesn’t seem sure on how to finish things, and even in a fundamentally silly film such as this one the amount of injuries and escapes from death of all three of the main characters does get ridiculous – though Bodalo did do every single one of his own stunts and consequently wound up several times in hospital during shooting!
There’s a lot to appreciate in The Night Of The Virgin unless you’re of a very sensitive disposition [some festival showings gave out free vomit bags, an old school favourite I haven’t heard about happening for some time]. Some may find the way we are obviously meant to laugh at one bit and then take the next event seriously results in a film that doesn’t really know what it’s doing. I think this just shows its makers setting out to have a blast and not really caring what the viewer may think, which is often a better way to go about it especially if you’re just starting out. I think that San Sebastian and Guerrero have a bright future ahead of them in the horror genre, even if I also think that they need to learn how to edit a bit more, to be able to tell when a scene or an idea has played out. “Less” can be “more” – sometimes.