director Jean Rollin
The Night of the Hunted is the first film I’ve ever seen by Jean Rollin, a cult erotic/horror French filmmaker. Rollin’s name had been familiar to me over the years, but I became interested in seeing his films after reading about him on Atomic Caravan, which makes this the second film that I’ve seen from Scumbalina’s writings. Netflix has been rather disappointing on the front of having the films that I’ve wanted to see available, so I chose The Night of the Hunted from what was available. Many of Rollin’s fans are dismissive of this film for a variety of reasons.
The film opens as a beautiful blond, wearing only a nightgown, runs in front of a car on an isolated road. The driver stops and takes her in. She’s only semi-lucid, panicked and “hunted” but with a memory that blanks out almost entirely every few minutes. She is hunted, it turns out, by a mysterious doctor and his gorgeous assistant. Their methods and intents are so clandestine and ill-explained that even as the story develops, you’re never sure whether their version of events is in fact veritable. They claim that due to an accidental exposure to toxic chemicals a group of individuals has developed degenerative cognizance and are being kept isolated to keep the public from finding out and freaking out.
Shot on a super low budget, the film is set among the foot of skyscrapers and desolate corridors. The film is a mood piece, a tone poem perhaps, about isolation, interpersonal (dis)connection, memory loss, identity, and oppression and paranoia. It has a haunting quality throughout, belying its cheap design, limited scope, and semi-professional actors (most of whom were “adult” film performers, whom Rollin had also filmed for movies in that industry). Brigitte Lahaie somehow still comes off haunted and tragic. The film’s ending, subtle and open, suggests some release from torment in death and dissolution.
I found it intriguing. And haunting. It’s one of those films that one ends up liking more than one should. It’s not that it’s a great film, but it has something that captures an essence,evoking something harder to put into words.