Archive for Jean Rollin

Night of the Hunted (1980) Review

Posted in Night of the Hunted with tags , , on February 7, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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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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Fascination (1979) Review

Posted in Fascination with tags , , , on February 6, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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FASCINATION

**** Out of 5

Release Date- November, 1979

Running Time- 81-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Franka Mai, Brigitte Lahaie, Jean-Marie Lemaire, Fanny Magier

Released in 1979 Fascination is often regarded as a vampire film, but that really isn’t the case and Jean Rollin is often seen as a horror filmmaker, but the good portion of his films aren’t mean to scare or entice suspense except such films as Grapes of Death, Living Dead Girl and Zombie Lake (which is horrific for other reasons). I suppose his films can be seen as horror, but they aren’t the traditional horror films and if you go in expecting a legit horror film outside of the ones I mentioned you might be letdown. The films of Jean Rollin are very much an acquired taste and outside of Grapes of Death and Living Dead Girl, which have more mass appeal, Jean Rollin can be hit or miss with viewers. I’m sort of in the middle; I like his work, but I also wouldn’t really say I’m a big fan either. I guess the best way to put it while I like his work, but as a filmmaker even if I like him he wouldn’t be in my top 10, but I do enjoy his films enough to continue to watch them. Fascination is a film I knew very little about going into it and I wasn’t quite sure if this would be my type of film, but I must say I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Fascination is one of those films that for me at least is a bit difficult to review. This isn’t really a horror film and it isn’t a vampire film I’m not really sure what I would really label it. If anything its a mixture of genres such as crime, mystery and horror even if nothing here is very scary nor was it meant to be. There’s only a little bit of action, which is effective, but not gory and while a lot of Rollin’s films were a bit erotic, which is the case here as there is plenty of nudity and a couple of sex scenes. However I wouldn’t say Fascination is sleazy, but rather erotic. If someone were to ask me what I liked about Fascination I would struggle to find the words much like I am now with this review, but like I said I really enjoyed Fascination and I’d rate it as one of my favorite Jean Rollin films.

Marc (Lemaire) a thief on the run comes across a chateau and decides to hide out there thinking its empty. But there are two women there who are part of a blood drinking cult.

The screenplay by Jean Rollin is fairly decent, but Fascination is a make or break film based on direction as the script is just sort of a guideline. Characters while lack depth are fairly interesting however and are mysterious enough to carry the picture even with the lack of action. Rollin’s script may not feature deep characters, but again they can carry the picture at least in my opinion.

As director Jean Rollin crafts quite an interesting film. Despite having very little action, Fascination is well paced and the brief action scenes as stated are effective. Rollin sets up quite a mysterious tone, which carries the picture throughout and while I would have liked a bit more suspense due to the terrific setting Fascination still works well. Visually the film looks great with an iconic scene with Brigitte Lahaie nude though wearing a black robe wielding a scythe as she walks back to the castle. Jean Rollin makes a truly fascinating film that has strong atmosphere and a mysterious tone, which makes Fascination an excellent film. As I mentioned Fascination is often dubbed a vampire film, but Rollin puts his own twist on things and labeling the film a vampire film would be wrong and if you expect that you’ll be disappointed.

Like I said for me at least Fascination is quite a difficult film to review. Like a good portion of his work this also is an acquired taste and will be hit or miss. For a more traditional horror film Grapes of Death or Living Dead Girl is the better bet, but if you’re looking for something a bit different give Fascination a try.

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Iron Rose (1973) Review

Posted in Iron Rose with tags , , , on February 5, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE IRON ROSE

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Strangest of Love Stories

Release Date- April 12th, 1973

Running Time- 80-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Francoise Pascal & Pierre Dupont

Released in 1973 The Iron Rose is quite an odd film that’s often linked with the horror genre, but like many of Jean Rollin’s films the basic idea behind them might be horror, but they aren’t really horror films and Iron Rose is one of those films. I often find myself having trouble reviewing Rollin’s films and Iron Rose is no different. It’s quite interesting reading reviews for Jean Rollin films since he’s a filmmaker that gets such different reactions and it seems as if there isn’t any middle ground. If you’ve never seen a Jean Rollin film I’m not so sure this would be the one to begin with. Iron Rose and other Rollin films can often be described as art films. While he has done some traditional horror films such as Grapes of Death and Living Dead Girl the good portion of his work is an acquired taste. If anything Fascination from 1979 is a good film to start with since it incorporates aspects of both Rollin’s art films and his more mass appeal horror films. The Iron Rose has very much split viewers and I’m somewhere in the middle. I liked the film, but I didn’t love it and I can easily see both viewpoints, but I can easily see my rating going up on multiple viewings. The Iron Rose is quite difficult to review and honestly like other films by Jean Rollin I might even struggle to come up with reasons why I liked. By many of his fans the Iron Rose is often considered his best film and I can see why, but I still go with Grapes of Death followed by Fascination.

The plot is rather simple, while at a wedding a Girl (Pascal) meets a Boy (Dupont) and the two set up a date to go ride bikes the next day. They end up stopping and going into a cemetery and when they go to leave that night the path they took is gone and as they wander around they soon realize they’re trapped with no way out. The Boy begins to get frantic while the Girl descends into madness rejecting the living in favor of the dead.

The screenplay by Jean Rollin is quite interesting, but Iron Rose isn’t a film that fails or succeeds based off the script since this is very much a director driven film. Characters don’t have much depth nor do they even have names, but none of this hurts the film due to how the story unfolds. The screenplay is flawed, but also quite poetic at times, but again Iron Rose isn’t a film where its about the writing.

As director Jean Rollin crafts a film that’s loaded with eerie atmosphere and he perfectly captures his location as the cemetery is quite eerie looking. Iron Rose is often linked to the horror genre, but its never really meant to entice much suspense or scares. However I would have liked to seen Rollin play more up to horror film conventions due to how eerie the film was. Regardless Iron Rose is loaded with atmosphere and pacing is generally strong, but even at only 80-minutes, Iron Ross does seem a little overly long. Even though I enjoyed the film I think its one that I’ll like more on repeated viewings. Iron Rose is all about the atmosphere and Rollin does an excellent job.

The Iron Rose is a film that will no doubt split viewers and the film really has no mass appeal. Iron Rose is also quite an odd film as we have a guy in the cemetery who looks like a vampire and even a clown! If you’re into artful style films Iron Rose could very much be your film as for others its tough to recommend.

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Lips of Blood (1975) Review

Posted in Lips of Blood with tags , , on February 4, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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LIPS OF BLOOD

**** Out of 5

Release Date- May 18th, 1975

Running Time- 87-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Jean Rollin & Jean-Loup Philippe

Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Jean-Loup Philippe, Natalie Perrey, Annie Briand, Catherine Castel, Marie-Pierre Castel

Releases in 1975 Lips of Blood is another film by Jean Rollin that’s bound to split those who view it. In most reviews I’ve written on the films of Jean Rollin I often mention how its difficult for me to write them and Lips of Blood isn’t an exception. Like a good portion of Rollin’s work they’re often put in with the horror genre, but Lips of Blood like many of these films really aren’t horror so if you go into Lips of Blood expecting a horror film you might be letdown and be better off going with Grapes of Death (my favorite Rollin film) or you can go with Living Dead Girl and those two films unlike this have more mass appeal. Lips of Blood is a solid effort and the film is just kind of interesting with a great visual look. Lips of Blood is also a little more story driven perhaps than a lot of Rollin’s work. If you’re a fan of Jean Rollin I see no reason why you won’t enjoy this film, but while this has more mass appeal than say Iron Rose I can see this being hit or miss.

While at a party Frederic (Loup Philippe) sees a photo of a chateau, which triggers a childhood memory of a woman he met. He tries to find the chateau, but somebody doesn’t want him to and people are paid off to keep quite and even killed. However Frederic continues his search and soon learns of secrets from his families past.

The screenplay was written by Jean Rollin & star of the film Jean-Loup Philippe. The kind of film Lips of Blood is isn’t a make it or break it film based on the writing as this is very much driven by the direction. There are stretches with little to no dialogue. The plot is quite simple and while characters aren’t really developed the plot is interesting and mysterious enough to keep it interesting.

As director Jean Rollin crafts a film that is quite stunning to look at and whoever scouted the location for the castle deserves an award. Rollin makes great use of his locations and in many ways they become a character in the story. As I stated if you’re looking for a horror film look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a fast paced film, Lips of Blood isn’t for you either as this isn’t an exciting film to watch in regards to action. However besides the great visual look, Lips of Blood also has a great mysterious atmosphere and while the film isn’t scary nor is it meant to be, but its also in someways a little eerie. I actually would have liked if Rollin played up to the horror aspects since this film like Iron Rose and a few others does have an eerie feel and have more atmosphere than most straight up horror films. The pace moves at a slow, but steady pace and while there isn’t a lot of vampire action everything is quite surreal and the mysterious tone helps keep the film move along strong and keep it interesting. The shots of the vampires roaming around can be a little eerie though not scary and their first victim is actually Jean Rollin in a cameo. Perhaps its just me, but Lips of Blood also has this dark fairy tale vibe going for it. I would consider myself a fan of Jean Rollin, but he wouldn’t make my top 10 filmmakers or anything, but he had a style all of his own and while that style may not suit everybody I enjoy his work for the most part. His unique vision can be hit or miss, but if you can connect with it you’re in for a treat with Lips of Blood.

Overall Lips of Blood is quite an interesting film and fans of Rollin should enjoy this one. Like I said if you go in expecting a horror film you’ll be disappointed. Its eerie and mysterious and another fine film by Jean Rollin.

Annie Belle under the name Annie Briand should be no stranger to fans of cult cinema appearing in such films as Ruggero Deodato’s House By the Edge of the Park and the Joe D’Amato 1981 slasher film Absurd.

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Two Orphan Vampires (1997) Review

Posted in Two Orphan Vampires with tags , , , on February 3, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES

**** Out of 5

Release Date- July 9th, 1997

Running Time- 107-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Alexandra Pic, Isabelle Teboul, Bernard Charnace, Natalie Perrey

Released in 1997 Two Orphan Vampires often draws mixed reviews, but it seems as if a good portion of Jean Rollin’s film often get very mixed reactions. As I’ve stated in other reviews on Rollin’s work his films are for the most part an acquired taste whereas films such as Grapes of Death and Living Dead Girl have a bit more appeal. On the surface Two Orphan Vampires seems like a film that will have more mass appeal, but while a bit different than Rollin’s more art-house style films (if they can really be described as that), Two Orphan Vampires like a lot of Rollin’s work from the 70s is a hit or miss film with viewers and I’m in someways surprised it gets as many positive reviews has it does though even by Rollin fans this is seen as a middle of the road film, but quite honestly I would rate this as one of my favorite films by Jean Rollin. Many films from his prime could be quite erotic at times with plenty of sex and nudity, but you went get any of that here as there is only one brief nude scene. Many reviews cite how unlike other Rollin films there is no gore, which is true, but Rollin was never really a gore director. Grapes of Death and Living Dead Girl had a lot of gore, but his other films even with some violence weren’t very gory at all. I often find myself struggling to write reviews on a good portion of Jean Rollin’s films and Two Orphan Vampires is no exception.

Like the good portion of his work I don’t think Two Orphan Vampires can be described as horror even if that’s the genre it fits. Rollin doesn’t really attempt suspense or scares and if anything this film can sort of be seen as a dark fairy tale. If you go into Two Orphan Vampires as a traditional vampire film you will be very disappointed as the film strays from normal vampire conventions. The two vampires can go out during the day, but are blind though they can see at night in blue. If shot they can be wounded or even die. The only thing that really makes this a vampire film is they do feed off blood. Like some of Rollin’s other less traditional films if someone asked me what I liked about Two Orphan Vampires I’d be hard pressed to really come up with valid reasons, but like I said I very much enjoyed this film a lot. However it isn’t a perfect film by any means and has plenty of flaws, which for some might sink the film and while these flaws can hinder my enjoyment to some degree it didn’t ruin it for me. Louise (Pic) and Henriette (Teboul) are as the title of the film described two orphan vampires living in an orphanage run by nuns. The nuns see them as angels unaware of their secret. The girls are blind by day, but at night they sneak off in search of victims for blood. The girls are adopted by Dr. Dennary (Charnace) and like the nuns he’s unaware of their secret.

Two Orphan Vampires was written by Jean Rollin, which is based off a series of novels he wrote when he started having trouble getting funding for his films. I haven’t read Rollin’s novel. Many have described the screenplay as poetic and while I wouldn’t go that far I can see how some would say that. The script is very wordy and very much driven by the two girls, which worked for me, but it was at times too dialogue heavy, which is fine if you’re Quentin Tarantino. Rollin’s script is very much a dark fairy tale and perhaps its just me, but I often wondered how much if what happened did and how much of it was the over active imagination of two teen girls, which perhaps could be why certain things seem to just happen with little explanation. One scene has Louise and Henriette in New York where they attack someone than flee up a fire escape and into a window when they enter they suddenly have bullet holes. Later in the film they’re seen walking around a cemetery during the day (this is after they’ve been adapted) and a couple spots them and says they’re evil. If anything the only thing they’d be guilty of is lying about being blind, which they aren’t well sort of. When the guy goes after them a young couple sees this and the girl has her boyfriend help Louise and Henriette, but they end up getting the girl and now two people are after them and they hide in a tomb where they meet another vampire. The two chasing them don’t enter the tomb and aren’t seen from again. However the first guy after them does come across the girls later by chance. As I mentioned the girls meet another vampire and they also meet other creatures of the night such as a she-wolf and a ghoul. Also the girls talk about how many times they’ve died and comeback and past lives.

As I mentioned all of these things could simply be part of the imagination of Louise and Henriette and perhaps that’s why certain things aren’t really explained and why they randomly come across other vampires and so on. It’s never explained either how Louise and Henriette arrived at the orphanage and their relationship isn’t explained. There is a close bond between the two girls and I did get a lesbian vibe however its never stated nor are there any love scenes between the girls. In Rollin’s work in the 70s it may have played out differently. However the script is also quite interesting and while I personally wouldn’t use the word poetic, but again I can see why some would. Like I mentioned the script is very much driven by dialogue and while that turned some people off I enjoyed it. Louise and Henriette were great characters they’re fun and while they do harm innocent people and one act of violence was quite tragic as this person cared about the girls I think most viewers will still be attached to Louise and Henriette and identify with them and root for them. Jean Rollin’s script may not always work and sure perhaps a little too wordy, but it has this innocence to it even if Louise and Henriette aren’t exactly innocent.

As director Jean Rollin moves the film at a slow, but steady pace. Some have cited Two Orphan Vampires as being too slow and while I get the complaints I was never bored, but a few minutes could have easily been lost. Two Orphan Vampires was shot on 16MM and I simply love the look of 16MM films and Two Orphan Vampires was no exception. The visual look created by Rollin is a big reason I was kept invested in the film even when things slowed down. The blue tint used in the film really helps create some visual style and gives the film a great look. There is some action spread out through the film, but its nothing very graphic and this would be one of Rollin’s tamer films in both violence and sexuality as I mentioned Rollin’s films can be quite erotic, but this film isn’t. I fully understand why Two Orphan Vampires does get negative reviews and sure its hard to argue against the flaws, but for Jean Rollin make an excellent film that leaves you wondering how much of this happened and how much was the imagination of two teen girls.

The strength of the film comes from the two leads. Alexandra Pic and Isabelle Teboul are excellent. Both girls are cute and have such great energy and natural charisma. The bond between Louise and Henriette never feels forced and the two girls play well off each other. Despite some of their actions I found myself identifying with Louise and Henriette and that stems more from the performances than anything else. Pic and Teboul both deliver such excellent and at times powerful performances and with their great looks and charisma its difficult to not root for them.

Overall Two Orphan Vampires is one of my favorite Jean Rollin films despite the issues the film has. Even though the film gets more positive reviews than I expected it does probably get more reviews that claim the film poor or average at best and I’m not surprised since the film doesn’t have mass appeal and might lack in certain aspects when compared to Rollin’s prime, but I still very much enjoyed Two Orphan Vampires and with excellent performances from Alexandra Pic and Isabelle Teboul I can see past the problems and enjoy it.

Tina Aumont best know for her role in Sergio Martino’s 1973 classic giallo Torso appears in a bit role as a ghoul and Brigitte Lahaie who worked with Jean Rollin on such films as Grapes of Death, Fascination and Night of the Hunted has a bit part as a victim of Louise and Henriette.

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A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973) Review

Posted in Virgin Among the Living Dead with tags , , on January 23, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD

*** Out of 5

Release Date- November 15th, 1973

Running Time- 79-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Jesùs Franco

Starring- Christine von Blanc, Britt Nickols, Rosa Palomar, Anne Libert, Howard Vernon

Released in 1973 Christina, Princess of Eroticism also goes under the more common title A Virgin Among the Living Dead. The film actually has three different versions and the Redemption Blu-ray release contains two of those cuts. After the film was made due to the growing popularity of erotic films another filmmaker was brought in to shoot scenes with full frontal nudity (both male and female) and add in some sex scenes. These scenes are on the Blu-ray releases as an extra feature. These scenes feel as of they were taken from another film since they don’t fit in at all. Than in the 80s with the growing popularity of zombie films, Jean Rollin was brought in to shoot a few scenes involving zombies and that footage was edited into the film and it was re-titled A Virgin Among the Living Dead and with the newly added scenes the film ran at about 90-minutes, 11-minutes or so longer than the Franco original version. Even Franco’s cut of the film is sometimes put out under the A Virgin Among the Living Dead title. When it comes to Jess Franco I’ll admit I’ve never really been a big fan of his work. More often than not I find his films shoddy in quality, which isn’t really a big deal since I’m a fan of filmmakers such as Ed Wood and Juan Piquer Simon, but my biggest issue with Jess Franco is the pacing of his films and that with the shoddy filmmaking is why I’m not a huge fan even if I do enjoy his work to some degree. But even in films I enjoyed I had issues with the pacing like Female Vampire, which can be quite sluggish in spots, but more or less made up for with the graphic nudity with Lina Romay. However Jess Franco at times has shown to be a fairly competent filmmaker. Bloody Moon, which Franco had no control over was a fairly decent slasher film and generally well made (at least in slasher film regards) and Franco actually was able to build a little suspense and while it’s not edge of your seat suspense it’s the very least decent, but even that film I had issues with the pacing, but I’d blame the screenplay more than anything Franco did as a director. A Virgin Among the Living Dead like Bloody Moon, shows Franco can be a competent filmmaker and while despite running at 79-minutes I did again have issues with the pace, but this would probably be my favorite Jesùs Franco or top 3.

I’m not entirely sure how to describe the plot without spoiling the film, but basically Christina (von Blanc) heads to a remote castle to stay with estranged members of her family for the reading of her fathers will. But once there satanic rituals other other strange happenings occur.

The screenplay by Jess Franco is probably better written than the good portion of his other films I doubt anyone will really cite the writing as the strength of the film, but when all is said and done the script is surprisingly decent. Characters are fairly interesting and while there isn’t a whole lot of plot what there is I found interesting. Like I said the script isn’t great, but fair enough and is possibly Franco’s most interesting and perhaps his best script as well.

As director Jess Franco delivers a film better than I expected out of him. As I mentioned earlier my biggest problem with his films even the ones I liked is the pacing. Despite running at 79-minutes I did find the pace a little sluggish in spots more so in the 2nd half. This isn’t a film with a lot of action and I can see where some viewers might be a little bored, but what kept me invested was Franco, sets up an odd and mysterious tone to the film with almost a bad dream kind of feel. With the really odd tone and making excellent use of his locations, Franco also sets up some eerie atmosphere as well. Lets make no mistake this isn’t exactly filmmaking at its very best, but it is a competent film and oddly enjoyable. In typical Franco fashion there is plenty of nudity on display and plenty of odd moments, but everything here is just handled better than the good portion of his filmography. Jess Franco’s films really intrigue me since at times he can make a truly lousy hack job that can be listed as one of the worst films, but than he can make a film like this, which has atmosphere and even some suspense and even when Franco is at his best I still wouldn’t label him anything else except a little above average, but he’s an interesting filmmaker with how he can make such a poor film and that make a fairly solid one.

Overall I actually enjoyed A Virgin Among the Living Dead far more than I expected. It has some nice eerie and mysterious atmosphere and while the pacing can be a little sluggish if you’re patient it’s worth it in the end as its a surprisingly decent film from Jess Franco. Jesùs Franco appears in a very odd role as Basillo credited under the name Jesus Manera.

As I mentioned A Virgin Among the Living Dead also goes under the titles Christina, Princess of Eroticism and even Zombie 4. I once wrote an article on the Zombie series though not every film was listed and in the case of this film Zombie 4 was of course to link it in with Romero’s Dawn of the Dead since it certain places in Europe it was titled Zombi and Fulci’s Zombi 2 was originally titled Zombie Flesh Eaters, but changed to Zombi 2 to make it seem like a sequel to Romero’s film and after that many upon many films would have the Zombi title such as Burial Ground and Living Dead At Manchester Morgue both re-titled Zombi 3 with several other films having an alternate title of Zombi 3 and none of these films were connected to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and none of the films titled Zombi were actually connected to each other except Fulci’s Zombi 3, which was a sequel to Zombi 2 though each of those two films stand on their own. A Virgin Among the Living Dead despite the title isn’t a zombie film (though the Jean Rollin scenes do add zombies to the film) and even though it also carries the Zombie 4 title it was originally released 5-years before Dawn of the Dead. The Zombie 4 title came about in the 80s due to the zombie craze.

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Not Quite Zombies. My Top 10 Infected Movies

Posted in Not Quite Zombies. Top 10 Infected Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

A lot of times the films on my list are linked with zombie films and while they follow the same basic formula there is a difference even if its very minor in some cases. I prefer zombie films, but what I like about infected movies is it really out of the realm of possibility? From various type of flus, chemical and biological warfare to stuff being created by scientist. Now I don’t expect something like in these films to happen, but hey who knows…….

So here is my top 10 infected films, every film listed in my opinion is a quality film on some level.

10. Nightmare City

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This is one of those films you can debate. At times its more zombie than infected so it really can go either way. Fun film by Umberto Lenzi with some pacing issues, but fans of Euro cinema should enjoy.

9. The Omega Man

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Solid film based off the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend. Charlton Heston, while good perhaps miscast. Fun film that had potential to be more, but still a solid film.

8. The Last Man on Earth

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Also based on the Matheson novel and this was the best adaption. While pacing can be an issue it also captures this great feel of being alone. Price was great and is what makes the film what it is.

7. I Drink Your Blood

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Rabid infected satanic hippies. Need I say more? This is just a fun film from a great era. While sluggish in some spots it always has a charm about it.

6. Quarantine

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Remake of Rec and while its pretty much a rehash it does have an eerie feel and Jennifer Carpenter delivers a truly great performance.

5. Rec

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One of the few modern horror flicks I find to be really creepy. This was a great and tense film and none of the sequels or the remake for that matter were able to match this on the scare factor.

4. Grapes of Death

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I enjoy what I have seen from Jean Rollin, but I never expected this to be as good as it was. The film is loaded with suspense and is quite eerie. Rollin mad a truly great and scary film.

3. 28 Days Later

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Is it a zombie movie or not? I say no obviously since its on this list. Great film and quite eerie. The deserted streets of London was quite terrifying.

2. 28 Weeks Later

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Once it gets going it never lets up. To me this like the original is prime horror filmmaking.

1. The Crazies

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One of Romero’s best films that doesn’t quite get the respect it deserves. Scary and suspenseful with great characters.

Grapes of Death (1978) Review

Posted in Grapes of Death with tags , , on March 8, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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GRAPES OF DEATH

**** Out of 5

Tagline- When the Wine Flows, the Terror Begins

Release Date- July 5th, 1978

Running Time- 90-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Christian Meunier & Jean Rollin

Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Marie-George Pascal, Felix Marten, Serge Marquand, Mirella Rancelot, Brigitte Lahaye

1978 was truly a landmark year in the horror genre, which saw the release of John Carpenter’s Halloween, the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which in my opinion are three of the greatest genre films of all time. Also in 1978 I Spit on Your Grave and Toolbox Murders were released and while those two films aren’t held in as high regard (for good reason) both films though I still find to be very good. That brings us to the Grapes of Death also released in 1978 and while I’ve known of the films of Jean Rollin for many years I never sought out his work and this is only the 4th film I have seen by him. The first 3 films I saw were Zombie Lake, which was horrible, but yet fun well sort of. Schoolgirl Hitchhikers, which by no means great, but a fun watch and the Living Dead Girl, which was another fun movie, but not great. But the Grapes of Death was an awesome movie and I can honestly say I never expected to love this film, but I did it truly was an excellent chiller.

The Grapes of Death is often labeled a zombie film, but think more along the lines of George Romero’s the Crazies as the characters are infected and not the living dead. However the only real problem I have with the film is its a little inconsistent. Some of the infected actually feel bad about killing people, but cannot help themselves whereas others are totally insane by the infection and have no grasp of right or wrong and others have sort of a blank look on their faces and shuffle about and if you just happened to tune in at that moment you would think it was a zombie film. So I guess it can be debated if Grapes of Death is a zombie movie, but I would say no since the characters are infected. But if anything that’s my only problem with the film is how some of the infected are so different than others at certain points in the film.

Elisabeth (Pascal) is on a train heading to Roubles, which is France to see her fiancé who works at a vineyard, but along the way a fellow passenger is attacked and killed by a man and Elisabeth makes a run for it. As she tries to get to safety she encounters more people like the one on the train that are mutilated and have some sort of infection that causes them to murder.

The script by Christian Meunier & Jean Rollin is fairly well written for the not part, but this isn’t a film that relies on its script. Grapes of Death is more about the directing than writing. The characters aren’t very developed, but in a film like this it really isn’t needed and while its not difficult to figure out why people are infected it isn’t until the end its made clear. Overall the script is strong, but again a film like this really isn’t based off the script.

As director Jean Rollin delivers an excellent and well made chiller that is visually amazing to look at and loaded with eerie atmosphere and great suspense and tension. More often than not Grapes of Death is quite creepy and Rollin gets great usage out of his locations. Based on the films I have seen thus far by Rollin even if I enjoyed them I felt they often lacked in suspense and tension, but not here. From the very start of the film Rollin establishes an eerie tone and crafts one hell of a creepy movie. Like I said I never expected to love this film, but Rollin in my opinion crafts one of my new favorite horror flicks. It has everything one would want in a horror movie. Most of Rollin’s films often feature nudity and that’s no different here, but there isn’t as much skin on display as some of his other work and this film shows Jean Rollin had a lot of talent. While some of his work can be seen as hack jobs and others ok films that are entertaining, Grapes of Death though is a classic that truly deserves far more attention.

As much as I loved the film though it does have some problems that keep me from rating it higher; as I brought up the film is a little inconsistent on the infected as some feel bad, but cannot control themselves and others are totally insane and others shuffle about silently like zombies, but I still again wouldn’t label this as a zombie movie though points can be made on why. Also another problem is shoddy editing at times as one characters changes out of her clothes into something else in a matter of seconds than goes outside and when she’s off camera for about a minute emerges in another set of clothes and now as 2 dogs with her. The ending also does slightly lower my score as unless Elisabeth was infected, which unless she drank wine she shouldn’t be, but if she wasn’t infected what she does at the end of the film is idiotic. I would say though she was infected and it just wasn’t made clear or perhaps that was the point we were supposed to wonder, but this was the only part of the film that Rollin didn’t handle very well.

Overall Grapes of Death was an excellent and eerie film much in the tune of George Romero’s the Crazies and would make an ideal double feature with it. If you haven’t seen any of Rollin’s work this is as good a place to start and if you only know him with films like Zombie Lake, well you haven’t seen how wonderful a filmmaker he could be at times.

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The Living Dead Girl (1982) Review

Posted in Living Dead Girl with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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THE LIVING DEAD GIRL

*** Out of 5

Release Date- 1982

Running Time- 91-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Jacques Ralf & Jean Rollin

Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Francoise Blanchard, Marina Pierro, Mike Marshall, Carina Barone

Released in 1982 The Living Dead Girl is an interesting film as its sort of a vampire/zombie hybrid with some violent deaths in tune with that of a slasher movie. The Living Dead Girl Catherine Valmont (Blanchard) returns from the dead thus making it a zombie movie, but she feeds off human blood making it a bit of a vampire flick. It also had a touch of Frankenstein; like how the Monster never asked to be created, Catherine never asked to be brought back to life and like the Monster she’s quite sympathetic as she knows she no longer belongs in this world.

While I’ve seen some of Jean Rollin’s films before, but its been a while and when I started back up it was with Zombie Lake, which was one of the worst films ever made, but oddly enjoyable at times and The Living Dead Girl comes 1-year later and what a difference in filmmaking and its hard to believe the same person who made this made also made Zombie Lake. While The Living Dead Girl won’t go down as one of the greats it’s an interesting and well made movie and unlike most films of its time it doesn’t knockoff Romero or Fulci and Living Dead Girl might be the most original zombie movie of the 80s. While its always good to avoid cliches the only problem I have with the film is it doesn’t really have an identity since again its a zombie/vampire hybrid and it seems, Rollin was unsure what he wanted to make so he made both. In his career, Jean Rollin is best known for his vampire flicks so I suppose he felt the need to add a little of that in Living Dead Girl.

Thieves enter the tomb of Catherine Valmont to steal her jewels and also store some toxic waste in the crypt. An earthquake hits and spills the toxic waste and the gases resurrect Catherine who dispatches of the thieves. She than heads back to her old mansion. She ends up coming across her childhood friend Helene (Pierro) who tricks people in coming back to the mansion so Catherine can feed and will do anything to keep Catherine’s resurrection a secret, but a when a photographer spots Catherine and begins taking pictures of her only to find out Catherine is supposed to be dead she begins to investigate what’s going on.

The screenplay by Jacques Ralf & Jean Rollin is actually quite interesting since as mentioned it plays up to both zombie and vampire elements and while the characters lack depth and the script unsure of exactly what it is the film is fairly well written. None of the characters standout except Catherine who as the script goes on becomes quite sympathetic. Catherine is able to retain memories of her life while alive and as the film goes on even is able to speak as well. There also comes a point when Catherine realizes she doesn’t belong in this world and no longer wants to kill anybody. I’d say Ralf & Rollin had to be heavily inspired by Frankenstein since it takes so many aspects of it. In some ways the script can also be seen as a love story of sorts since it seems there is something deeper to Catherine and Helene’s relationship than just friends or that’s how I saw it. What’s also interesting is there really isn’t any real villain either; Catherine starts off as one, but as the film goes on you begin to feel bad for her and if anything Helene is the real villain as she tricks people into going to the mansion for Catherine to feed and even kills people who can expose her secret, but Helene is also just trying to protect the person she deeply cares about even if she is committing murder its done more than just being evil. Quite honestly I didn’t really expect anything like this out of the script and while sure characters are one dimensional, the plotting a little uneven the script also has some deeper aspects that might be lost on some or perhaps I’m looking into things too much.

As director Jean Rollin delivers a solid film, but with many flaws. In general Living Dead Girl is well made, but the pacing at times can be quite sluggish. Everything starts off well enough, but as the film goes on and strays from any action for quite a bit things do begin to slow down and while I wouldn’t say I was bored it wasn’t very exciting either. The majority of the film is shot during the day, which does hinder the suspense and while the final act is nighttime it’s also very brightly lit as well. Living Dead Girl has some great settings, but Rollin never uses it to its fullest potential as the film for the most part does lack eerie atmosphere and the suspense can be a little weak for the most part, but despite these problems, Rollin does deliver a mostly well made film that can at times as I said be sluggish in its pacing. When there is action, Rollin does deliver the goods with some great gore and outside of 1 or 2 gore scenes they all look great. I’m not very well schooled on the career of Jean Rollin despite knowing who he is, but based on what I have seen I never thought he could deliver a deep film that actually made feel bad for Catherine and the ending is quite tragic and really stuck with me as well.

Overall the Living Dead Girl was a much better film than I expected it and while the film has enough flaws to prevent me from rating this too highly it is a film I would recommend and while the film as a whole isn’t strong enough to overcome the flaws it also has enough going for it to make it a solid film.

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Schoolgirl Hitchhikers (1973) Review

Posted in Schoolgirl Hitchhikers with tags , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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SCHOOLGIRL HITCHHIKERS

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Sex Kittens Who Stop at Nothing

Release Date- August 16th, 1973

Running Time- 79-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Natalie Perrey

Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Joelle Coeur, Gilda Stark, Marie Helene Regne, Francois Brincourt, Reine Thyrion

Released in 1973 Schoolgirl Hitchhikers is a semi forgotten film by Jean Rollin as there really isn’t a lot of info out there about it. While this film by no means great I personally found to be a lot of fun. I’m no expert on the films of Jean Rollin, but what I have seen thus far I have actually enjoyed for the most part and Schoolgirl Hitchhikers is no different. Films like this are truly from another era and would never work in today’s world. The first 30-minutes features 3 sex scenes including girl on girl, which isn’t as exploitive as one might think and there is also a 3some, which is the tamest of all the sex scenes. The women often get naked even when there is no sex involved and we simply do not see this anymore due to everyone seemingly being PC. I don’t need sex and nudity to hold my interest, but its refreshing to see films like this since most filmmakers these days don’t have the nerve to do anything like this. After we get 3 sex scenes, Schoolgirl Hitchhikers get into what there is of a plot.

2 girls Monica (Coeur) and Jackie (Stark) head off to a house they think is abandoned and spend some quality time together. Later that night Monica comes across Fred also hiding out in the house. The 2 of them have sex and later Jackie joins in on the fun. The next morning they leave and when and Beatrice (Regne) shows up we learn she and Fred are jewel thieves and the jewels are now missing. The thieves find Monica and Jackie and take them back to the house believing they stole the jewels and torture the girls to find out where they are hidden.

The screenplay by Natalie Perrey is really fun and campy, but I don’t think anyone goes into these movies for a well written script. However I did like Monica and Jackie and all the characters are the very least fun even if they have zero depth not that it really matters in a film like this. The actual plot doesn’t get underway until roughly 30-minutes in and seeing as the film is only about 79-minutes plot isn’t very important. In a sense it’s the same scene over and over again, but yet the script retains a fun factor throughout. Besides the thieves trying to get back the jewels we also have a subplot of a bumbling private investigator (Brincourt) and his secretary (Thyrion). While I can’t say the script is very good, but again its a lot of fun.

Director Jean Rollin (under the name Michel Gentil) crafts a really fun and campy movie and despite the amount of nudity and sex I never found the film sleazy for the most part. In general it’s the same scenes over and over again, but yet Rollin keeps it fun and the pace never lags. From the start, Rollin establishes a fun tone and is able to retain that throughout the entire running time. The sex scenes aren’t very believable since put it this way when Monica and Jackie are having sex their heads are a little too high to be doing what they are supposed to be doing, but rather than be sleazy there is something sensual about it and believe it or not does come across as more 2 girls really into each other rather than exploitive. The other sex scenes are more exploitive however, but this film is meant to be sexual and again Rollin crafts a really fun flick. Though the film does slightly take a mean approach when one of the thieves begins to torture Jackie, but its also quite erotic at times as it borders S&M. Overall Jean Rollin may not make a film that’s great, but its a lot of fun, sexy and silly.

Overall Schoolgirl Hitchhikers isn’t a film for everybody and while there is a plot its quite light, but overall I actually really enjoyed this film and not just for the sex and nudity. Joelle Coeur and Gilda Stark are quite easy on the eyes so their scenes are a highlight, but the film always for me at least remains fun and at only 79-minutes the film moves pretty quickly.

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