It’s a date movie for the woman I haven’t met yet. Ash Hollywood lives in a fearful, provocative dream and she can’t wake up. She’s in the desert, her dress is covered in someone else’s blood, she has no panties or pubic hair, and this is all before she is taken to Michael Vegas’s Sex House.
Dana Vespoli’s first (and highly anticipated) feature for Evil Angel is as economical as it is trippy; it’s the type of movie informed by the Golden Age of Porn but executed with 21st century sensibilities; there’s a clear—if surreal—narrative that shapes itself around the sex, which is both hard and compelling. No arty cutaways that make us forget it’s a porn film.
Ash Hollywood is dropped off at a house after stumbling from the desert, and walks from room to room watching sex happen. The movie captures the dreamlike feeling of Things Happening To Us rather than Making Things Happen.
When she takes a shower and is interrupted by Michael Vegas, she utters the longest dialogue of the film.
“What are you doing?” she says. “I’m scared. I can’t wake up.”
(He fucks her anyway, and she lets it happen. My church tells me that you can’t get pregnant in a dream, anyway.)
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For all its parodies, Porn is also flooded with Grim Movies. These are often distasteful because they’re so poorly executed; it leaves the viewer wondering why the director went to so much trouble just to make him feel bad, and in so doing made everyone on screen less attractive.
But Vespoli pulls it off. Ash Hollywood never breaks character, and as we learn how she wound up in this dream (hint: Hollywood is not the title character), we’re reminded more and more of “The Devil in Miss Jones,” a movie that showed its audience there is a viable alternative to (as director Paul Thomas puts it) “Happy People Having Happy Sex.”
In its use of masks, voyeurism, and the general House Full of Sex vibe, “Forsaken” might also be compared to “Eyes Wide Shut,” except that Stanley Kubrick movie is sunny by comparison.
Through flashbacks and muddled audio (this device sometimes gets distracting, but we’re always aware it’s being done on purpose, which is comforting), “Forsaken” reveals Michael Vegas’s true identity and introduces us to the lynchpins of the movie: a straying Manuel Ferrara and his troubled wife, Samantha Ryan.
But it’s Ash Hollywood who grows on you. She doesn’t do a hell of a lot of acting—non of them does—but she is juicy and submissive in this role, ripe for unsettling things to happen to her. It’s a lack of control, a lack of topping from the bottom, that makes her character resemble something from Porn’s past.
“Forsaken” is my first favorite porn movie of 2013, but it might have also been my favorite porn movie of 1976.
Buy “Forsaken” here