On a cold dark night, a man is driving through the countryside and discovers a young woman who seems to be running from something. The man stops and puts her in his car and does not notice another woman, who is completely naked, calling out for her. The woman tells the man that her name is Elizabeth; she insists there are people after her but she seems to be confused and frightened. He takes Elizabeth to his apartment in Paris and realizes she is incapable of remembering anything for any length of time. He tells her his name is Robert, which she has trouble remembering a few minutes later. She begs him not to leave her as she will forget him, and the pair make love, during which Robert tells Elizabeth to remember his face so she will never forget this time together. The next morning Robert has to go to work and when he's gone, Dr. Francis breaks into his apartment to persuade Elizabeth to return to the clinic, where she escaped from, where people are being treated for memory loss. On ...
Night of the Hunted is ostensibly something of a departure for French horror auteur Jean Rollin. Its story is on the face of it unusual for the director. Its about a mysterious clinic in a high-rise building where patients have a mental disorder where their memories and identities are disintegrating due to an environmental accident. The setting is in the middle of a city and the visuals are ones of sterile urban alienation as opposed to the Gothic surrealism more typically associated with Rollin. Yet, within this veneer is a film that anyone even remotely familiar with the director's work can identify quite easily as one of his films. It has the typical Rollin characters - alluring yet strangely asexual young women in the central roles and extremely dull men in the periphery. The dialogue is as poor as always. The story is as flimsy and senseless as its possible to be. There is an abundance of nudity. It has the strange melancholic, romantic atmosphere which always makes his movies so odd for horror films. And it also displays Rollin's eye for the surreal. The ending in particular on the grassy viaduct over the city being a perfect example of this. In other words, Night of the Hunted, despite surface differences contains all the strengths and weaknesses that all Rollin films have.
The story and setting itself very much recalls the work of David Cronenberg. But the similarities are entirely superficial. As Rollin is pretty much diametrically opposite in approach to Cronenberg as a filmmaker. Where the latter is highly scientific in his approach, Rollin is a pure romantic. In fairness, the story here could have done with a bit of developing to make it entirely satisfying but then you could probably say that about all the other films in the directors oeuvre to some extent. There is a quite nice score which certainly adds to the atmosphere well; while Brigitte Lahaie is a good presence and by some distance the only memorable actor in the entire film.
If you have any hope of enjoying this film you need to be able to buy into the weird haunting world typical of this director. You need to have some appreciation of his visual ideas too. Otherwise I expect you may dislike this rather a lot. I wouldn't say this is a particularly accessible Rollin film; I'm not really sure there is such a thing.
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