Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet
The Night of the Virgin (aka La noche del virgen)
Directed by Roberto San Sebastián
Cleopatra Entertainment / MVD Visual
116 minutes, 2017
This is the kind of film you are not usually going to find coming out of the English language zone. It’s beyond quirky, and has a sensibility and pacing all its own. In Spanish with English subtitles, it all takes place in one New Year’s Eve night into day, and certainly will not be a good memory for, well, any of the participants.
Our titular… well, okay, let’s say hero, Nico (Javier Bódalo) is a mousey lookin’ guy who is a 20 year old virgin, and he’s no Steve Carell. He has the social skills of Sheldon Cooper without the brains to match, and he’s at a rave party getting drunk and on the prowl. Meanwhile his so-called friends have abandoned him and are off somewhere in the room, insulting him via text, as they do throughout the story; we never see them. This is where and when he meets Medea (Miriam Martin), who is closer to the old Greek legend than a man dressed up like a raucous grandmother.
Medea takes a fancy to him, despite his maaaaaany shortcomings (and I’m taking about personality, not physicality here), and takes him home. Thing is, she’s a bit of a psycho in an apartment that’s a mess and filled with huge cockroaches that she treats like the Hindi respect cows. She’s obsessed with a strange goddess from Nepal, and he’s thinking with his dick, so you know it’s not going to end well.
Enter an angry boyfriend named Araña/Spider (Victor Amilibia) on the other side of the front door trapping them inside and threatening to kill them both, and the downward, furious and bloody night-into-day just keeps on getting stranger and more painful for everyone involved.
Speaking of which, for a small central cast of three (though there are numerous momentary passersby), there is a lot of gore and especially a lot of body fluids from nearly every possibly hole, including one you may not have thought of before.
|Miriam Martin and the Nepal goddess|
Of course, this is a genre film, so hopefully what I’m going to say is hardly anything close to a spoiler alert, and I will not give away any key points, I promise. You just know right from the onset that there is more to this Nepal religion than just a weird vegan-like devotion to an obscure goddess. It kind of makes sense in a twisted way, as some traditional Spanish dresses (the kind worn behind hand-held fans) are a bit similar in style to North Indian wedding regalia.
This is considered a comedy, but it’s dry as solid carbon dioxide; yeah, there is a definite chance to laugh more at what is happening than with the characters, but it definitely does a bit to temper the action going on the screen to get you to not overload until the next gross-out.
All the actors do really well, especially the two leads. While Bódalo frequently tends to act through his eyes and teeth, it actually works for this particular character as he goes through varying waves of shock, fear and anger). Martin also does well going back and forth between MILF, mother figure, and monstrous. The thing is, not one character in the film is likeable, and yet – especially the leads – manage to keep the viewer interested in what is happening to them despite lack of any kind of real backstory, and that’s good acting.
For such a tight space, the camera moves really well among the characters both emphasising the narrow apartment and yet not making it claustrophobic until it’s meant to do so. Other people pop up here and there, and are like water flowing past the story as ersatz Greek Choruses, commenting on (or using a cell phone camera to record) what they observe rather than taking any steps to do anything about it; as I’m not familiar with Bilbao or Madrid culture, I don’t know if this is device or comic or ironic social commentary.
As I was saying, the camera work is quite sharp often focusing in on extreme close-ups of faces via Sergio Leone style, quick zooms like Sam Raimi (few POV, though), or micro-shots of whatever gross is occurring at the time. There tends to be a tint towards the yellow, but it is also effective to be purposefully off-putting, I am assuming.
The extras are a couple of this films trailers, a bunch of other Cleopatra Entertainment coming attractions (some reviewed on this blog), and a 2:14 slideshow which are stills taken directly from the film.
My only real complaint is that this could have certainly been trimmed by at least 20 minutes, as it overruns its story in nearly two hours. But it will probably still keep your attention even as you occasionally wince at the actions, or just stare at the screen and say, “What did I just see?!”
What I really liked about it, despite its length, is that it doesn’t always take either the easy or obvious route. You’re bound to see some of what happens coming, but odds are there’s a trick or two up Sebastián’s cinematic sleeve, as it were.
Certainly I would call this body horror, but again, sometimes not in ways one would expect; but like I said, it could still be considered quite squeamish for most other than die-hard fans. But, isn’t that part of the beauty of the whole enchilada?