Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jean Rollin double feature

Over the last couple of nights I've watched a couple later Jean Rollin vampire flicks so I figured why not throw together a quick double feature review of them.

The late French auteur Jean Rollin was known for his surreal style of horror films. With a dream like quality they were often filled with plenty of nudity and blood but with an artistic touch that lifted him above his contemporaries such as Jess Franco and Lucio Fulci (this is in no way a knock to either of those fine directors). Short on budget and excessive on "what the fuck?" Rollin made some classics... and some absolute garbage. He passed away this past December of 2010 and it was a blow to the Euro-horror world. His later works certainly had a generous mix of ups and downs.
I started the 2 night double feature with his 1997 Two Orphan Vampires. A story about two blind vampire sisters who can see at night when they hunt around the city for blood. They live in a Catholic orphanage until they are adopted by a renowned eye doctor. This movie was a big question mark for me. I wanted to like it... a lot. I thought the atmosphere was thick and I really did feel like I was watching this happen while dreaming. There were a cast of other monsters such as a werewolf and a demon bat thing, but we are never shown them in beast form, they just inform our orphans of what they are. The story doesn't really go too far... there is a beginning, middle and end but there isn't much to any of it. The movie is restrained by Rollin's standards. Two shots of nudity which are very brief and bloodshed is restricted to being seen around the mouths of the girls after they attack for the most part. Still, the more I think about it the more I can focus on the positives. I wanted to like it more than I did and I really wanted to have a reason to like it more than I did. Not incredible but worth a watch if you want something different.

Last night was Fiancee Of Dracula, another vampire flick like those that made Rollin a name among horror enthusiasts. I sum up this movie by calling it ridiculous. In a good way though. There are bat-shit crazy nuns, vampires appearing out of clocks, a baby eating ogress, a midget jester who is the lover of another vampire, witches, a Van Helsing like hunter and his young trigger happy assistant... it goes on and on. The basic story is simple... sort of. Isabelle is set to become the bride of Dracula and the nuns who are being controlled by Dracula's influence from beyond protect her but want her to hurry up and get it over with so they can go back to being normal or so they say. Just about every other character is out to protect Isabelle and make sure her marriage goes off without a hitch. (Pun!) There are twists and turns and an awful lot of stuff that doesn't make a lick of sense. There is a dream like atmosphere of course and more blood and considerable more nudity than Two Orphan Vampires. It eventually makes enough sense for a story to come together but don't think about it too much. I enjoyed watching it and it does have some classic Jean Rollin touches.

These films certainly could have balanced each other out though. Fiancee could use a more central character like the orphans but TOV could use a more gratuitous everything. There is no hiding that these movies are up to the standards of Rollin's more famous and plain better movies . That is also to say that these are far superior to the utter shit that is Zombie Lake. The man had a style, it better suited some movies than others but the man knew what he was doing and did it. These movies are worth a watch to at least see some craziness and sheer lunacy.

It was a little late, and these certainly won't be remembered as his best films but this will serve as my tribute viewing for Jean Rollin. I look forward to digging deeper into his library in the near future.


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