One word could describe Jesus Franco: gratuitous. So many of his films are overtly sexual. A Virgin Among The Living Dead (1973) is no exception. Contrary to what its title suggests, it is not a film about zombies, though it was marketed as one. Like many of his other works, it has the appearance of being filmed through a jar of vaseline. Yet strangely enough, it has a distinctive mood to it, as well as an eerie, ghost-like atmosphere.
The film follows the story of a young woman named Christina, whose father has just passed away. She travels to her family’s estate for the reading of his will. The family members who occupy this dwelling are a bit strange to say the least. They’re perverse, demented, and seem to be preoccupied with one another sexually. Using characters such as this, within this setting, is one of the things that gives this film its atmosphere. I can’t think of any other words to describe it, except for ‘sexual haunted house.’ Franco really pulls no punches with the family members. From incestuous sisters, to a mentally deranged man who wanders the halls of the estate, talking to himself.
Earlier, I mentioned the atmosphere in this film. Once you look past Franco’s obsessive need for a nude scene, you’re left with a finished product that is really well-executed. The viewer, along with Christina, doesn’t know the truth behind the family members living there. That isn’t revealed until the film’s final act. Franco builds up the suspense and wonder, albeit with vivid and erotic overtones. Combine that with a surprising twist ending, and you have yourself a cult classic.
Side note: If you’re offended by nude scenes, it’s best to stay clear of Franco’s filmography. What else do you expect from the director of Ilsa: The Wicked Warden ?
At the end of the day, it’s a good horror film. There’s a little bit of something there for everyone.