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I Am Virgin
I've broken my cardinal rule, watching both the making-of featurette and director's commentary of I Am Virgin before writing this review. I guess just one look at the DVD cover made me realize I wanted to give these fellow Portlanders a little leeway before tearing into what looks like a silicone-enhanced, no-budget groaner of a sex-and-sleaze show. Turns out I didn't really need to, as the movie adequately speaks for itself, but my personal preview of the whys and wherefores certainly helps me understand my own feelings towards what turns out to be a relatively successful little flick - as far as a silicone-enhanced, no-budget, sex-and-sleaze-show groaners go.
But this is no late, cash-in, Asylum Studios spoof of I Am Legend. While spoofing that movie, director Sean Skelding also throws out homages to other inspirations, from The Omega Man to The Evil Dead, putting together a fairly seamless, clever and funny picture. That is, until Skelding decides to give Seduction Cinema a run for its money. Troublingly, the blend never gels.
Robby, (Adam Davis) is the last normal human on Earth. From his home in holocaust-devastated Portland, Oregon, the young man spends his days cruising deserted streets on a hunt for food. Between desiccated corpses he finds canned goods. Bassett hound Billy is his sole companion - actually, that's not true, as Robby spends plenty of quality time chatting up his three-breasted alien blow-up doll. These huddled nighttime conversations take place in Robby's fortified suburban home: after fleeing virus-riddled, sex-crazed vampires, Billy shambles to his little doggy bed, while Robby heads for the doll. Getting ravished by a vampire dooms one to vampirism too, but as far as Robby's concerned, wouldn't an eternity of bonking horny vamps be pretty OK? Of course not! He's saving himself for the right woman!
There are so many reasons a movie like this should fall apart, but I Am Virgin doesn't, thanks to plenty of funny bits, solid direction and Adam Davis's easygoing performance. Davis, looking something like a cross between Justin Timberlake and Jeremy London, takes his role seriously enough to show he's not screwing around, but winks too, kindly letting us in on the joke. Skelding knows it's a joke too, even though his intent is serious. Skelding's here to make an effective film. Sure, having heavily tattooed small town strippers ad-lib explicit come-ons as they run naked through an abandoned warehouse isn't high-concept, but Skelding commits with technically assured work and pacing. There's little challenging here, but most everything points to a good time.
On the other hand, Virgin sports effects and production design that are so low budget that even in their maximum-potential presentation, are still god-awful. It's not so much the tarps-and-colored-lights sets - fairly effective for 50 bucks - but the CGI still shots will never convince. Digital removal of cars works well for aerial shots, but stills of burnt out, blown away buildings are just goofy. For a goofy movie it's not a huge problem. My problem here involves numerous sex scenes. Sex is a huge draw, and I'm a big fan, but for a movie that does as well as Virgin does playing things relatively straight, each new horny romp really stops the film. Though often startlingly convincing, these explicit soft-core couplings mostly lack narrative, feature cool but overpowering and too-different music, and employ different mis-en-scene. Flat-out, it's two movies in one, creating a disruptive experience that will warm your loins and confuse your brain. Oh yeah, Ron Jeremy makes a guest appearance, too. How Portland is that?
Our virginal 16 x 9 presentation delivers the nice aspect ratio, but budgetary constraints show. Colors are fairly bright, but not too deep, while blacks, also aren't terribly deep. Details aren't great either, and the image is of just barely acceptable clarity. Compression artifacts like posterizing and other minor defects make their appearances as well. Overall, the picture isn't something bad enough to distract you from the movie, but it doesn't do DVD proud, if you catch my drift.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio does a good job conveying dialog and sound effects in a pedestrian soundscape. Most pleasing is the good fidelity and powerful presence of unique soundtrack music, even the disruptive psychedelic guitar rock used often during all that hot vampire sex.
Standard extras include a 7-minute Making-Of featurette that's light on narration, but provides enough BTS footage and information for folks with casual interest. A Commentary Track with Skelding and Davis deepens the BTS scene, will give you some new insight on soft-core moviemaking, but is a little too dry to be totally entertaining.
This is probably the most serious review I Am Virgin will get, but it deserves it. Solidly built and pretty funny, Virgin is a sturdy spoof. The problem, (other than the low budget) comes when all your favorite hipster Portland strippers start grinding. Are they hot? Yes. Is the action hotter than most soft-core DVDs you'll find? Actually, yes. But is stopping a pretty good goofy movie every ten minutes for cheap sex a good idea? It depends on why you're renting this movie. If you're not willing to go into the little curtained alcove in your local video store, but have an evening alone with your little buddy, I Am Virgin is Recommended. If you're someone who's just looking for the next Sandra Bullock DVD, Skip It. We'll play the average and suggest you Rent It.