MARCH 11, 2013
OK I'm two days past the "weekly" deadline but as promised, Jean Rollin's Night Of The Hunted (French: La nuit des traquées)! It's one of the more commonly requested titles whenever Rollin comes up, so I hope you can all sleep easier now. And it's more proof that some of you guys are trying to fuck with me, because like Gozu and Battle Royale (two other highly requested movies) it's not really horror, at least compared to his other movies. Compared to The Remains of the Day, sure, it's horror, but most of the body count is courtesy of random shootouts, and is closer to Memento than anything else.
But don't let that scare you off - it's a sequentially told story! I suspect Jean Rollin attempting a reverse chronology would be the most batshit confusing movie ever made, since his storylines can be a bit puzzling even in order. No, it's just that our heroine Elizabeth (Brigitte Lahaie) seemingly suffers from a Shelby-esque memory loss where she forgets what she's doing while doing it, can't remember someone moments after meeting them, etc. But she's also got regular amnesia, which makes things even worse (but doesn't stop her from bedding down with the guy who found her wandering in the road) until she is discovered by the people who she was escaping from - a mysterious team who oversees her and several other patients with similar memory issues. They're all in a dark tower in the middle of the city, and the movie is basically about her trying to figure out who they are and why she's there.
Spoiler: she never does. In a puzzling move, the male lead disappears for a good chunk of the movie, only to come back later when she finds a phone and calls him from the tower. And he's the one that the bad guy scientists explain things to, so he's sort of the audience surrogate while also being a random guy we don't care much about. If we stayed with him after she was recaptured and he investigated, maybe it would work, but since we're with her for almost the entire movie, on a narrative level it doesn't quite satisfy that she's pretty much in the same boat (actually a bit worse) at the end as she was when we met her.
However, if you look at it as a tragic love story, it's quite successful in an odd way - the last shot of the two of them actually made me sad, and at the same time I was kind of charmed by oddly sweet it was. I won't spoil the particulars, however - words would fail to describe it accurately anyway. Still, I wish the guy had a little more presence throughout the movie; when she returns to the tower she is reunited with another amnesiac who was apparently very important to her, but after a while that character is written out and replaced with another woman - it's just hard to really get a grasp on anything or get a sense of what's going on, which is fine for a mystery as it does sort of put you in the mindset of someone with memory loss (which Memento did beautifully), as you're constantly seeing new people while others disappear, but there's nothing to "solve" here. We're just kind of hanging out until the sinister doctors decide to tell someone what's going on.
And by hanging out I mean: watching sex scenes. There's a hint of lesbian attraction, but nothing explicit this time - all of the lovemaking we see is "straight", and thus we get a shot or two of a guy's junk to (sort of) balance out all the naked female bodies we see during the film (at least four, and more than once for most). At times it seems like Rollin is suggesting that sex can help slow down the memory loss in some way, but if so that never really comes to fruition (it'd be a hell of an idea, though). And like the end, some of these scenes are kind of sad; Elizabeth is tormented with the notion that she won't be able to remember something that is currently giving her so much joy.
So how is it horror? Well there's certainly a sense of unease and some dread throughout the film, and the really far gone patients act like zombies, but once a few of the pieces start falling into place it's pretty obvious that they're not having their memories wiped to create an army of drone killers or anything genre-specific like that, so it loses a lot of that feel. However there's an extended sequence that seems lifted from a different movie entirely - one of the guards decides to have his way with one of the women (she barely fights him off, and after a minute is seemingly OK with it), when suddenly a guy who looks like Roman Polanski walks over and begins beating him with a hammer, covering the poor girl with his red paint blood.
But that's pretty much it for the full blown genre stuff - I think it's better to approach the movie as a sad drama with some minor thriller elements, and let the occasional bits of horror act as a bonus - if you want a regular horror movie from Rollin, Living Dead Girl or the lesser Zombie Lake would be your best bet. I'd also recommend watching it if you need a Cronenberg fix, since he doesn't do horror anymore. It's not "body horror", but I got a Scanners/Rabid/The Brood vibe at times all the same, which reminded me that I still need to see Shivers! But until then - what Rollin should I watch next, out of the ones that are on Instant (which is most of them, thankfully)? Less than 3 weeks left!
What say you?