Night of the Hunted Reviews
(1980) The Night Of The Hunted
(In French with English subtitles)
ADULT HORROR/ SOCIAL COMMENTARY
A woman wearing her sleeping clothes on is seen wandering along the highway. Her expressions are a total blank but a young man comes to pick her up and finds that she has a poor memory who has a knack to forget what ordinary people would remember such as where and who she was. We then find that people were following her car too as they wait for him to go to work. These two people would then come to pick her up as they know more than viewers do.
Not so much a horror film as much as a social commentary film about alienation particularly from the government where theirs a point A and a point B. There are a few scenes of gore but the real horror is the thought about how people of higher authority treat the unfortunate. And perhaps with a higher budget, this film wouldn't be that bad.
3 out of 4 stars
The films of Jean Rollin are unusual in ways that many find off-putting. They usually meander around colorfully surreal or absurd images and morbid situations for long stretches so that it becomes unclear where the (sometimes thin) narrative is going. They always have a dreamlike tone that can drive some viewers mad with the desire to hit the fast forward button. But for those who share Rollin's sensibilities, these films are gorgeous and evocative pieces that seem lifted out of a fascinating other world. The stories are a mixture of quaint old pulp conventions and wild sexual excitement that, at its best, blends into something no one else in cinema really tries. There are points of similarity between Rollin and Jess Franco, but where Franco seems more interested in pumping out as many films as possible, I feel Rollin has a stronger body of work. Rollin always seems to have a central idea around which he's gathering images in the same way a poet will collage words. He layers quiet, moody shots of beautiful, melancholy women walking through gorgeous locations with horrific images of bloody violence in what seems to be an effort to get beyond the shock of the juxtaposition and question the feelings that are provoked. Since the violence is often linked with sexuality there is a reoccurring idea in his films that sex is both the beginning and ending of life. Indeed, in The Night of the Hunted sex is the only thing the poor afflicted souls can experience and remember.
This isn't the sex-equals-death concept of so many American slasher films but a more European view of sex as a transformative and healing act even when it's linked with danger. Rollin's parade of undead creatures are almost always beautiful but tortured. Unhappy in life they are just as unfulfilled in death - but are now robbed of the choices life afforded. Joy is always in the past for Rollin's characters and tears are their only response. In Night of the Hunted the diseased people aren't zombies or vampires but are rendered "dead" all the same. Their tragedy is made all the more touching by its gradual, degenerative nature putting me in mind of the victims of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.
The Night of the Hunted (La Nuit Des Traquées) is often cited as one of Rollin's weakest films but I don't feel that way, if anything its one of my favorites as you can see from this very long-winded review. It's famous for its small budget and two-week shooting schedule, but even though its extremely low budget is occasionally evident I think the director stages his story well enough to hide most of its financial shortcomings. The performances are not exceptional by any means but get the job done effectively and the frequent nudity is a plus that distracts me from a few of the more wooden actors. In all honesty, the film could be much worse than it is and I would still champion it simply because of its inspired final shot. The image of two defeated and desolate characters walking away from the camera into the distance becomes the antithesis of riding off into the sunset. It's a haunting and deeply effecting image that stays with me for weeks after every viewing. As cheaply produced as this film is, I enjoy it a great deal more than some of Rollin's more expensive works. I wouldn't start a newcomer to Rollin's movies here since it lacks his usual vampires and phantasms, but it might be a good second feature to try out