Night of the Hunted (1980) Review

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NIGHT OF THE HUNTED

**** Out of 5

Release Date- August 20th, 1980

Running Time- 91-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Brigitte Lahaie, Vincent Gardere, Bernard Papineau, Dominique Journet, Natalie Perrey

Released in 1980 Night of the Hunted is quite an interesting film by Jean Rollin and while it has elements of what fans expect its also quite different and in someways has a little David Cronenberg going for it and maybe a touch of George Romero’s The Crazies (a plot device Rollin played more up to in 1978’s Grapes of Death). As I’ve stated in other reviews when it comes to the films of Jean Rollin he’s very much an acquired taste with the exception of Grapes of Death and Living Dead Girl, which will have more mass appeal his other films aren’t for everyone and Night of the Hunted isn’t really an exception, but for different reasons. Night of the Hunted while has elements of Rollin’s style it’s also a bit different. While it doesn’t have the mass appeal of Grapes of Death it also doesn’t feel art-house like some of Rollin’s other films. If you’re looking for a fast paced film with a lot of action this film isn’t for you at all. Like many of Rollin’s films there is plenty of nudity and some sex, which felt a little out of place, but no complaints from me. This film is very much driven by characters and a very mysterious atmosphere. It’s quite hard to really defend Night of the Hunted from some negative reviews and I suppose when all is said and done when it comes to Jean Rollin’s career this film is probably middle of the road for a lot, but I really enjoyed this one and while not my favorite Rollin film I would place it possibly in my top 5. Night of the Hunted is far from perfect and my 4-star rating is probably closer to a 3.5, which I was leaning towards, but decided to give it 4-stars despite any flaws.

Night of the Hunted has a great idea, but I think the script could have used a little more work. Robert (Gardere) while driving home comes across Elisabeth (Lahaie) running from something. Robert stops and she gets into his car and she has no idea what she’s running from. They go back to Robert’s place where we learn she has completely lost her memory. After the two have sex, Robert leaves to go to work and than Doctor Francis (Papineau) shows up and takes Elizabeth back to the tower where she fled from. Once there we see various people all suffering from memory loss. The script by Jean Rollin was clearly a rush job as there are some great ideas and the story itself is quite interesting, but there are some shortcomings such as simple things like its a guarded tower, but Elisabeth escapes ones and almost escapes again. Some of the people in the tower are insane (this is where its a bit like Romero’s Crazies). Characters have no depth, but that works in the favor of the film since they all suffer from memory loss and they try to remember things, but can’t. This is the type of script where you don’t need a lot of depth for the characters. The reason for the memory loss is explained at the end, but its sort of a passing mention. I would have liked if perhaps a couple of flashbacks showed what Elisabeth was like before. There is a very brief scene prior to her memory loss shown and another one or two like that could have gone a long way. Jean Rollin does write a very interesting screenplay and while at times the dialogue does repeat itself the script is fairly strong, but again it seemed to rushed and could have used a touch up or two. But I did find myself pulling for Elisabeth, which is partly due to Rollin and actress Brigitte Lahaie.

As director Jean Rollin crafts an interesting film that is quite mysterious and while the payoff was a bit of a letdown the mysterious tone carries the film throughout most of the running time. When it comes to Jean Rollin some hail him as a great filmmaker and others a hack and I think both words are thrown around way too much. In Rollin’s case he was far from a hack though Zombie Lake was a hack job and easily has to rate as one of the worst films made, but in general his films were well made, but again his films are mostly an acquired taste. However I personally wouldn’t say he was a great filmmaker, but he was a solid one. Night of the Hunted is driven by its characters and story and the film features very little action outside of a few scenes here and there. As I mentioned with some shortcomings in the script that does create a few pacing issues, but for a film with very little action I didn’t find pacing to be a major issue due to the tone set up by Rollin, but even if I think he was a solid filmmaker I’m not sure he was good enough to make a film like this despite the flaws with his script, but to Rollin’s credit he does a solid job and does as I stated create a really mysterious tone, which does more or less carry the film.

Overall Night of the Hunted is quite an intriguing film with a solid mystery and while like I said the payoff was a slight letdown I still very much enjoyed the film regardless of any flaws. As much as Night of the Hunted departs a bit from Rollin’s style to some degree I also don’t think it has the mass appeal of some of his other films. Night of the Hunted as stated doesn’t feature a lot of action and I can see why some might say its boring, but I felt the pace ran at a steady pace and while not exactly an exciting film the mysterious tone keeps the pace moving.

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