director Jean Rollin
For all the films I see and write about, it’s really quite few that linger on my mind long after. Jean Rollin’s The Night of the Hunted (1980), which I watched last year, definitely had that effect on me, particularly its ending. But having such an active film queue, this is only the second of Rollin’s films that I’ve actually watched. And it was the final leftover from my October/Halloween viewing for the year.
Interestingly, it starts a bit like The Night of the Hunted in a way. A woman, clad only in a sheer nightgown is being pursued through the darkness. Only this time, the pursuers all wear bizarre animal masks and black clothes. The first 10 minutes or so contain no dialogue at all, so there is really no explanation to who she is, who her pursuers are, her plight. She is a woman in danger, menaced by mysterious, masked strangers.
She runs into a young man who is not wearing a mask and he runs with her away from the pursuers. But ultimately they are trapped on a bridge and one of the masked predators pulls a revolver and shoots the girl. They continue to menace the young man, but they don’t end up shooting him, and he escapes.
Again, this air of mystery haunts the film, this lack of explanation.
When dialog does come into play, the young man, it turns out is trying to find out what is going on. Apparently his father is behind everything with some mysterious club. But if that weren’t weird enough, the son and father have these two strangely-dressed twins who serve them at their house. The women are erotically dressed, though quite oddly, and it’s clear that they are somehow objects to the men, though they are never shown having sex with them.
The son eventually infiltrates his father’s club, which turns out to be some suicide cult dedicated to worshiping the young woman from the opening, who turns out to apparently be a vampire who cannot die, or can simply heal super fast. That doesn’t turn out by any means to be the last twist of unveiling what is really happening. The whole film turns out to be layer upon layer of reveal which eventually winds up with there being highly evolved mutants, the next race of “man”. I don’t consider this a spoiler because it’s just weird, not revelatory.
Weird this movie has in spades. It’s not quite as haunting, or at least it wasn’t to me, I don’t think, as The Night of the Hunted, though I did like it. It has an amazing poster as you can see above.
There also, I thought, seemed some sense of feminist statement running through this film. Which might sound weird itself in a movie with so much T&A. But the woman, the vampire, is controlled by these men who seek to exploit her vitality, her immortality. Though she never speaks, she is eventually rescued by other men and women. The twins, who at first are strange objects in the house of the man who controls everything, turn out to be spies, girls also who cannot die, ultimately able to overthrow the men in control.
Though there is also this bizarre point when two of the three men who control the organization just wander off, in pursuit of different things to do when it all goes awry. It’s almost comedic. Or maybe it is comedic. The levels of strangeness are pretty high by this point.
I’m definitely down for some more Jean Rollin films.