FEBRUARY 22, 2013
Last week I promised to watch a Rollin every week, so this is me keeping that promise! I'm a good person! Fascination was chosen over two others due to being the shortest, but I had also heard that it was one of his more accessible films, which is always a plus for me. It's Friday, I don't want to think too much - just enjoy the sights and story and maybe go "Whoa...." (but not "WHOA!" Joey Lawrence style) at a kill or two. I'm a simple guy.
That said, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that I enjoyed the nudity and softcore girl on girl scenes in this, and I can't really feel like a pig for saying so, as that's pretty much all there is to the movie, so to dislike that element is basically to dislike the movie as a whole. The plot's pretty damn thin - a thief on the run from other thieves breaks into a chateau which houses a pair of mysterious ladies who are waiting for the rest of their friends to show up for some sort of ritual... and that's about it. Unless you REALLY love thinly explained gold heist plots or history lessons about how folks treated anemia back in 1905, there isn't much here beyond very attractive women disrobing (or wearing see-thru robes) and occasionally REALLY enjoying one another's company. There are a couple of straight sex scenes as well, but even those tend to ignore the male part of the equation and focus on the ladies. It's not exactly a porno, but it's closer to that than a horror film.
However, those brief horror bits work terrific, particularly when the one girl, wearing an unlaced black robe charges around in wonderfully contrasted daylight toward a victim with a giant-ass sickle (a shot from this makes the cover of the newest release from Redemption, albeit without the nudity). It's not the first violent moment in the film, but it's certainly the most iconic and eye-catching, to the extent that even if you WERE turned off by the lesbian stuff, it would be enough to keep you in the movie's corner for a little while longer. I also liked the group devouring one girl near the end, another horrific image that probably worked better because the movie had so few of them.
It's also got some great dialogue (or the world's most ambitious subtitler). I loved the girls messing with their would-be captor early on by pretending to be typically frightened and helpless damsels, all the while barely able to keep from laughing since they know he poses exactly zero threat. And I giggled like an idiot for like 4 minutes when the head "vampire" asked the guy if she could examine him like she would a horse - HOT. Such moments make up for clunky bits like how the setting is introduced, by a guy explaining that the now outdated practice of drinking ox blood to cure anemia is "how we do things here in 1905" - just put a title card up!
Another thing I enjoyed was the (admittedly slim) possibility that Rollin was inspired by Alien Prey, an oddball gem from Norman J. Warren that was released a year prior to this. Both films feature a potentially dangerous guy who happens upon a pair of isolated lesbians and drives a wedge between them, which can't be a plot that comes to a lot of minds out of thin air. Obviously things go different from there, but in a way that's almost a detriment - I think Fascination worked better when it was just the three characters (plus the thieves, a perfectly decent enough diversion), and loses steam once the other ladies show up - perhaps if Rollin WAS inspired by Prey in some way, he might have had an even better film if he followed its lead a bit more closely and kept it more contained.
Otherwise, I quite enjoyed this odd little film. The horror element wasn't very extensive, but I wasn't expecting it to be - and it's certainly more in line with my notion of what a Jean Rollin film is like than last week's Zombie Lake, so there's something. Onward! Next week: Night of the Hunted!
What say you?
P.S. WARNING - trailer is NSFW.