I Am Virgin (2010) I Am Virgin (2010) ˝

     We all know that parodies of mainstream blockbusters have been a big part of the hardcore porn business model since at least the mid-1980’s. In fact, titles like The T&A Team and Driving Miss Daisy Crazy have been so successful at attracting attention and sticking in the memory (which, after all, is what they were meant to do in the first place) that people who are not habitual consumers of pornography often seem to assume that all modern-day fuck-flicks conform to the mockbuster paradigm. Well, apparently what’s left of the softcore market wants in on that action now too, and thus it is that I waste my time and yours alike with Sean Skelding’s I Am Virgin. Yes, it’s a soft-smut parody of I Am Legend, and its main accomplishment is to demonstrate in the starkest possible terms what a terrible idea it is for softcore porn to emulate the hardcore variety.

     The H1D3 virus appears from seemingly nowhere, and the outbreak quickly reaches pandemic proportions. The germ’s designation might lead one to guess that it’s a member of the influenza family, but if so, then it’s the weirdest flu that ever there was. Many of the infected die outright, which would indeed be more or less normal for a really virulent flu strain. Those who survive the disease’s onset, however, are transformed into sex-crazed vampires, which, to put it mildly, is not what usually happens with influenza. The epidemiology here doesn’t bear much examination, but the upshot is that virtually the whole human population of the globe is turned or exterminated in short order.

     One of the “lucky” exceptions is a shy, sexually inhibited mama’s boy named Robby (Adam Elliott Davis), although neither he nor we nor apparently Skelding and his co-writer, David Wester, have any idea how to account for his immunity to the sex-vampire plague. Three years after the H1D3 outbreak, he’s the sole human inhabitant of Portland, Oregon— or of anywhere else, either, so far as he can judge from the total lack of response that his blog posts and webcam videos generate. (Are you ready for the one halfway-funny joke in I Am Virgin’s whole first hour? Well, here it is: even three years after the end of the world, Robby’s e-mail inbox is still swamped anew each morning with automated come-ons for penis enlargers, bootleg Viagra, and Russian mail-order brides.) His sole companion an easygoing basset hound named Billy, Robby spends his days roaming the streets of Portland in search of fellow survivors, hoping that somewhere in the crumbling city, he might yet find someone to help him get quit of his increasingly onerous virginity— and that right there is the first fundamental problem with this movie.

     It’s not like Robby is hurting for willing partners, after all. Everywhere he goes, he encounters at least two and generally as many as a dozen vampire girls who would be more than happy to devirginize him. There’s no suggestion that vampirism might be sexually transmitted per se until Robby himself belatedly wonders aloud about the issue on his video blog nearly an hour into the film, and even if it were, there’s also no evident downside to being a vampire. So far as I can see, you just keep going about your normal life, except that you have to work the night shift and you get to bang heavily tattooed strippers all day. If Robby were really that eager to get laid, all he’d have to do is run away a little slower. (Another thing I Am Virgin teaches us is that platform heels are distinctly suboptimal footwear for chasing people.) Nor can you convincingly say that Robby finds the vampires unattractive, because each of I Am Virgin’s major set-pieces climaxes with Robby perving on a group of vampires having sex, visibly wanting to join in, but then running for the hills the instant they notice him watching and invite him to do just that. Now early on, we are treated to a flashback in which Robby is harangued by his mom (Leah Miller) and dad (Hank Cartwright, from Child of Darkness, Child of Light and Stripperland) about the psychological, physiological, and moral perils of sex, but because it never seems as though he took his parents’ warnings really to heart, that scene is unable to perform its likely function of establishing and explaining the lad’s hang-ups. Besides, how prudish can a guy who owns that many thousands of porn DVDs possibly be? Robby’s attitude toward sex seems less conflicted than merely contrived for the sake of spinning out the running time to full feature length from the ten or fifteen minutes that this premise more justly deserves.

     Anyway, Robby pisses away an hour of our time prowling the streets of Portland with a patently empty shotgun, and watching alt-porn types with plastic fangs pretend to fuck each other while going light-years out of their way to prevent the camera from catching sight of their genitals. Then and only then does something finally sort of happen, for Robby spies movement through the heavily curtained windows of a suburban house not unlike his own. (The vampires, for whatever reason, usually prefer to make their homes downtown instead, in tattoo parlors, sex shops, mental hospitals, and warehouses.) The cause of that movement would be Paul (Ron Jeremy, of One-Eyed Monster and Death Factory), a relative newcomer to town. Paul disappoints Robby by being not only Ron Jeremy, but also a vampire. However, he’s a bit different from the run of the undead mill, in that he actually prefers the celibate, shut-in lifestyle that Robby has tried so hard— or rather, has pretended to try so hard— to escape. He also knows a few important facts that have thus far eluded our hapless hero. Paul, you see, became a vampire only recently. Previously, he was living in a commune of H1D3 survivors up north, making him very much the herald of hope that Robby was wishing for, even if Paul is no longer technically a survivor. Paul’s experience at the commune also shoots a gaping hole in Robby’s theory (which he only now puts forward, more than two thirds of the way through the film) that it was his virginity that spared him from the disease. There was plenty of fucking going on up north, but nobody ever turned fangy or sunlight-averse. In fact, Paul himself even had sex with vampires a few times with no ill effect, but one day he happened to find himself thinking about his deceased wife while going at it with one of the undead, and all of a sudden— BOOM. Brand new dental bills, as he puts it. It isn’t merely sex with vampires that spreads the contagion, then, but rather one’s attitude toward it; shame and guilt are what brings on the change. In other words, Robby can make all the music he wants to with the children of the night, but he’d better not feel bad about it! Of course, given Robby’s sexual neuroses, these are not quite the tidings of liberation that Paul might imagine.

     The five minutes or so that Ron Jeremy is on the screen are easily the most competent and entertaining part of I Am Virgin, and the only point at which one can even faintly discern why Sean Skelding could have considered this movie worth making. Had that scene been the turning point of the story— instead of the only indication that there ever was a story in the first place— I Am Virgin might have risen to be a one-and-half- or even two-star film. The contrast between Jeremy (who has occasionally been called upon to do a bit of real B-movie acting) and everybody else (few of whom had ever been called upon to do more than swing themselves around a brass pole naked) is both stark and depressing. Jeremy is perfectly at ease with both himself and the camera, and Paul— amiably lewd, charismatic in a turkey-pot-pie-that-walks-like-a-man sort of way, and possessed of a certain weirdly specific brand of wisdom— is the only character who can be said with a straight face to have a personality. He makes things sound funny that probably shouldn’t, and serves up his five-course exposition combo platter with sufficient authority that it doesn’t immediately sound like utter nonsense. Adam Elliott Davis, meanwhile, gets consistently shown up by Billy the Basset Hound, and the porn performers make sex look about as enjoyable as scrubbing the mildew out of shower-stall groutwork, to say nothing of the atrocities they inflict upon their lines and stage direction.

     Considering all the holes in the story, all the cloddish performances, and the near-total absence of meaningful effort to engage with the film that it nominally parodies, it’s pretty remarkable that I Am Virgin fails most completely as pornography instead. There’s a tradeoff underlying the distinction between hard and soft porn as the two genres have developed since the early 1970’s. With hardcore, you get next to no story, terrible writing, worse acting, drearily repetitive scene setups, and performers who have turned themselves into circus freaks via cosmetic surgery, but the sex scenes are unsimulated and they show everything. Softcore leaves more to the imagination (which isn’t necessarily a laudable quality in this context), but it offers more and better writing by authors who aspire to go beyond merely putting things in order for the next sex set-piece, actors with similarly higher aspirations (and with fewer and better surgical enhancements), and less rote ritualism in how the sex scenes play out. Skelding apparently didn’t understand that tradeoff, though, and I Am Virgin ends up feeling like the opposite of the old routine whereby hardcore sex scenes were inserted into movies not originally designed to feature them. It resembles a hardcore film from which every glimpse of penetration— or of mere below-the-waist nudity, for that matter— has been edited out, and to which half-assed plot-advancing scenes have been clumsily edited in. The truly staggering thing in this context is that there is also what amounts to an alternate version of I Am Virgin, seemingly aimed at those whose main complaint with it is that it didn’t go quite far enough in assimilating softcore porn to the structural norms of hardcore. Brookland Brothers Entertainment, apparently the in-house video label of the Portland sex shop where part of I Am Virgin was filmed, offers a DVD called Vamp Vixens, which consists of nothing but extended versions of the sex scenes from this movie. Logically, one would expect Vamp Vixens to be I Am Virgin’s hardcore sister production, but it turns out to be just as counterproductively demure. If ever you wanted to see the difference between mostly pointless and completely pointless laid bare, a side-by-side comparison of I Am Virgin and Vamp Vixens would do it. I personally would recommend seeking some other way that wouldn’t consume a combined two hours and 45 minutes of your life, however.

 

 

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