Wednesday, December 16, 2009


TITLE: Night of the Hunted
DESCRIPTION: Cult French sex-horror director Jean Rollin created this oddity in 1980. This one is a strange departure from his usual vampire-themed fare: In a strange future society, the residents of an apartment building suffer from collective amnesia and insanity, resulting in extreme sex and violence. [RottenTomatoes]
DIRECTOR: Jean Rollin
YEAR: 1980
RUNTIME: 95 min

Wow. I think I may have broken my personal record for losing all ability to suspend disbelief in a film. Thanks to the wonders of tracking, I can confidently say that at 4 minutes, 40 seconds, this film stopped being enjoyable, and instead became highly irritating. Yeah, yeah, the sex scene from 13 to 19 minutes pretty much sizes up the aims of this film -- to be a vehicle for sexual content. Even then, though, it's not hard to get the basics of logical storytelling down, so when directorial laziness emerges so early in the film, it's exceptionally easy to look a gift horse (however comely she may be!) in the mouth.

I'm referring of course to the opening scene, wherein our lead lady, Elizabeth (Brigitte Lahaie), runs frightened into a country road where she's picked up by a young man named Robert (Vincent Gardnere). Just as he shuts the driver's side door to the car, a beautiful, naked woman named Veronique (Dominique Journet) tears quite obviously into the range of his headlights. He looks ahead, and asks Elizabeth if there was anyone with her. Elizabeth says she was alone. Meanwhile, the naked woman is still kicking around in plain sight of the headlights. Nevertheless, the man in the car drives off.

Now, even if I were to entertain the belief that Robert somehow didn't see this woman (and I find a naked woman lit up by headlights pretty hard to discount), I'd also have to entertain the belief that this woman, desperate to reconnect with Elizabeth and showing no reaction whatsoever to the man with her, would stop so randomly short of the car and just hang out by a tree, going no closer, though the distance clearly pains her. That's when irritation begins: It would have been so incredibly easy to shoot this scene in a more realistic sequence -- Robert and Elizabeth driving off, Elizabeth claiming she was alone, and finally, the forgotten woman running out of the woods too late, the car already a blip on the horizon.

This sadly is less a slight omission than an omen for things to come: Soon after, we're to believe that a doctor and his assistant were able to shift from a foot pursuit to a country road vehicle in time to tail Elizabeth's escape vehicle all night without being spotted (a hard thing to do on empty roads -- but again, Robert just missed a naked woman right in front of him, so maybe he's just that ignorant!). Soon after, we're supposed to believe that a building filled with patients suffering the same recurring memory loss would be left utterly unattended, with said patients free to wander at night, despite regular incidents of murder, brutality, and of course rape. Which we could, in the paradigm of a horror film, had we any cogent reason to believe the doctor and assistant had ulterior motives for trapping all these victims in the same building together... but if they did, why on earth would that same doctor, along with four guards, shoot so indiscriminately when Elizabeth and Veronique again attempt escape, after taking such great pains the first time to return them in one piece? Furthermore, how do they manage to miss at such close range, when the ridiculous ending of this film is contingent upon the doctor being a sharpshooter at upwards of 50 yards? And let's not forget that all of this is taking place in Paris -- so where on earth did Elizabeth and Veronique escape from the first time, when Elizabeth was first found at least six hours from the city?

As excuses for excess nudity, sex, and violence go, this is one of the flimsiest plot progressions I've ever seen. Oh, and I haven't even mentioned how Robert is absurdly able to discover Elizabeth's exact location from the absolute vaguest of details, or how a superficial wound to another girl's eyes somehow ends in death, or how, when Robert arrives to rescue Elizabeth, he bewilderingly pauses to dance with another patient in front of the building (and therefore, in clear view of any guards monitoring the building). Also, how the doctor and assistant quite randomly give up on their search for a cure just in time to dedicate the last twenty minutes to less than methodically murdering the remaining patients, all in varying stages of memory loss.

Are there any redeeming elements of this film? I'm sure some might argue that so much lovely bare flesh, carelessly utilized as it is, is always its own reward. Maybe so, but there's exposing skin and there's eroticizing the human body, and I'm not convinced the latter is achieved here. This film is also billed as horror, with an admonishment about not watching if you can't handle gore, but there's precious little blood spilled, either, making the film thus far 0.5/2. However, I will give Night of the Hunted credit for its underlying premise -- brutalized as it was in execution for the sake of more skin-shots. Yes, a good film about mass memory loss could be created with the same basic plot points as this one, if revisited by more skilled hands -- so if Night of the Hunted accomplishes anything, it's to stoke my desire to watch a better director make just such an attempt. But that's really the only good I see in this film -- and even then, I have to admit that just about anything would be an improvement upon director Jean Rollin's attempt. So take that slight praise as you will.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING AIDS: Friends willing to help mock the film, and maybe a porn magazine or two to off-set its paper-thin excuses for female nudity and sexual content. How these two aids mesh with one another is... up to you.

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