Screening as part of this year’s A Night of Horror film festival in Sydney.
On New Year’s Eve 2015, the perpetually unlucky and titular virgin, Nico (Javier Bódalo), is seduced by older woman Medea (Miriam Martin) and invited back to her apartment. When Nico arrives, Medea reveals an educated side to herself, interested in eastern philosophy and an obscure Nepalese religion. Conversely, her home is a grimy, cockroach-infested hovel. Driven by his rampaging hormones, Nico ignores this and spends the night anyway. In the morning Nico and Medea find themselves barricaded within the apartment by Medea’s angry and jealous ex-boyfriend, Spider (Victor Amilibia).
So far, so good then. Nothing untoward there. But let us assure you, Roberto San Sebastián’s Night of the Virgin is one hundred per cent bonkers. What starts off as a sex comedy quickly becomes a celebration of the grotesque, ending as an utterly gobsmacking entry into the body horror sub-genre.
Night of the Virgin’s seedy decay and dimly lit apartments bring to mind the dusty post-apocalyptic stylings of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen. But in more visceral terms, think of a cross between the occult paranoia of Rosemary’s Baby, and the feral insanity of Peter Jackson’s wonderfully depraved Braindead.
There is a hella weird story here, and director Roberto San Sebastián affords himself every opportunity for visual flair. From phone screens within screens to illustrate incoming text messages, disorienting double vision shots to indicate cranial trauma, weirdly angled framing, and swirly, discombobulating camera work. This is no by-the-numbers horror movie under any criteria.
The cast is small but perfectly formed. Nico is all bug eyed and big-toothed grinning, played to awkward perfection by the peach-fuzzed Bódalo, goon-y looking and uncomfortable and completely believable as a kid whose luck has turned – just not in the direction he thinks. Miriam Martin’s Medea is a sizzling older woman femme fatale, impossible for Nico to resist, and Victor Amilibia’s Spider (Araña in Spanish) an oafish thug of predictable yet brutish dimensions.
It is a pretty safe bet to say you will not see a madder film this year, or perhaps any other year. Every conceivable bodily fluid makes its way to the screen. You’ll feel filthy from just watching it. And yet this is not just a mere shocker for splatter fans. There is the darkest of black comedy at work here. You are forced to laugh at the audacity on display. That nervous laughter that escapes involuntarily when you can’t quite trust what your eyes are reporting back to you.
To top it all off, the tight confines of Medea’s dingy, grime caked apartment invite the claustrophobic part of your brain into panic stations. The endless bass thud of the neighbours NYE party is ever present, so you are never left with the quiet to contemplate anything, particularly as the last act lurches from one affront on your eyeballs to the next. The sound design revels in squelchifying every action, stirring up the queasiness in the pit of your stomach, as you watch from behind your hands.
If there are a couple of minor quibbles, the opening news sequence and some of the set pieces feel needlessly protracted, and an end credits epilogue has the unexpected consequence of cheapening things somewhat.
Nevertheless, no one can accuse Night of the Virgin of lacking imagination. For those that like their horror movies weird, it doesn’t so much think outside the box as it thinks outside the planet. But be in no doubt, the imagery is extreme. To be sure, this is a niche horror movie, but if you crave inventiveness from the genre then celebrate Night of the Virgin in all of its degenerate glory.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10
Warning: Even the film’s decidedly RED BAND & NSFW teaser trailer isn’t quite for the faint of heart…