KILLING CAR is one of Jean Rollin's most unusual films and is a real departure from the vampire theme for which he is best known, though it still maintains Rollin's signature mix of mysterious femmes fatales and female flesh.
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A gang of pirates rape the two sole survivors of a ship wreck. The violated girls are rescued by the strange inhabitants of a supposedly haunted island, where they are granted supernatural powers to strike revenge against the pirates.
This low budget first film from director Jean Rollin is in reality two very loosely-connected, surreally erotic shorts about vampirism. In the first, three Parisians including a psychoanalyst try to convince four neurotic sisters living in a decaying country chateau that their belief that they are 200 year old vampires is false. The alluring young women are influenced and controlled by a enigmatic disembodied voice which turns out to be the an aging, aristocratic lord of the manor, whose motives are unclear but clearly perverse. Local rustics unite to hunt down and kill the sanguine siblings. In the second, the Queen of the Vampires and her acolytes arrive on the scene, resurrect the dead, and promulgate the cause of the Undead while a medical researcher works to find an antidote to vampirism. Written by
Gabe Taverney (email@example.com)
A mess, perhaps, but a really rather beautiful one.
I must begin this review by being honest. This film baffled me. Completely. I didn't understand it. At all. So why the devil am I writing this, you may ask? To urge you to see it. Rollin does for horror films what Suzuki Seijun does for the gangster film, or Leone for the Western - he blows it to pieces to create something otherworldly and new. Although not nearly as well - from what I can make out, Rollin's sensiblity is facile, reactionary, inane and exploitative. But he does have an eye. And what an eye.
I think the film's 'failure' to lucidly communicate is actually the point. I mean, under all the visual verbiage, there is a plot of sorts. Not that I even got this part right. There's this gorgeous French chateau. There are sisters, maybe two, maybe four, who are being controlled by this disembodied voice, who turns out to be an crusty old landowner with a foreign accent. They are being told they are vampires, and one of them keeps remembering the time she was raped by villagers. We are shown images of this event, although neither their temporal status nor reliability is signalled.
Three young, modern, attractive Parisian types arrive for no stated reason at the chateau, spouting psychobabble, convinced that the girls are delusional and mad, needing help. It turns out that the landowner is not in charge at all, but a lesbian vampire queen add her predictably nubile cohorts, and madness ensues as the forces of science and the modern do battle with the undead. The film may be a satire on de Gaullism, conservatism, radicalism, or feminism; or maybe it's just the visual ramblings of a very talented Poe-obsessed teenager. Who knows?
The whole thing is addled, pretentious nonsense. Fragments of this plot get lost in a mass of possibly meaningless symbolism (although I actually know someone who can make everything in TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME fit coherently, so I'll suspend judgement). But we must remember that horror films traditionally involve a force of meaning eventually triumphing and explaining the forces of evil who would destroy meaning. After PSYCHO, the validity of this was called into question, and the horrors of films like REPULSION and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD became terrifying precisely because it was not possible to explain them away.
This is presumably Rollin's intention, to destroy the arrogant assumptions of all systems of meaning. The inevitable result of this is chaos, but it's a chaos gorgeous to behold. Rollin has the cherishable flaw of wanting to stick his camera in the most awkward places just to astound us. And he does
there are images here no mainstream director would dare
The mixture of Gothic, Gallic atmosphere, and a sublime clarity of imagery is stunning. The climactic shoot out also shows how French gangster films, with their concentration on the disintegration of the individual, unlike their US counterparts, have their roots in horror, the mighty FANTOMAS.
Rollin divides his two part melodrama in the middle of the action. The whole film has the feel of a project taken away from its wayward director, and re-edited by blind minions. It is a silly, delirious, wonderful thing, a true 'melodrame' as the subtitle suggests, showing us in a hideous mirror the repetitious cycle of living death we are caught in our everyday lives.
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