Review: Fascination (1979)

Fascination (1979)

Directed by: Jean Rollin | 80 minutes | drama, horror, eroticism | Actors: Franca Mai, Brigitte Lahaie, Jean-Marie Lemaire, Fanny Magier, Muriel Montossé, Sophie Noël, Evelyne Thomas, Agnès Bert, Cyril Val, Myriam Watteau, Joe de Palmer, Jacques Sansoul

It may seem obvious, but there’s nothing fascinating about ‘Fascination’, other than the enigma of how Rollin managed to create an erotic horror/vampire movie that’s neither erotic nor creepy, and doesn’t feature actual vampires. Yes, there are daggers and a scythe in front and red make-up or syrup that must pass for blood, and women show their bare breasts every now and then (and more) but this hardly causes any tension, nice gore moments or ( sexual) stimulation. Now these elements in films by Jean Rollin – a filmmaker who has focused on the (sub)genre of erotic horror – are not equally successful in all his films, but there is always an aesthetically or substantive fascinating aspect to Rollin’s work that make his films worth watching. Unfortunately, this is not the case with ‘Fascination’. With the exception of one or two nice slow motion moments or strong images like a half-undressed Brigitte Lahaie with a big (Reaper) scythe in her hands, there is really nothing to recommend ‘Fascination’.

At the beginning of the film, the theme of vampirism is immediately introduced by having genteel ladies drink ox blood (in wine glasses) in a slaughterhouse. Apparently for medical reasons, as it is a good remedy for anemia, the viewer is told, but the ladies seem to like it very much, one of them even uses the blood as a lipstick by dipping her finger in it and covering her for a long time. rubbing lips. Basically this is an interesting angle to the chewed up vampire theme, but unfortunately nothing is done with it. It would have been exciting to turn the leeches in the film into real, realistic vampires willy-nilly. Of course it’s not new to make tragic figures of vampires who don’t enjoy their sucking – a good example is the sad Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog’s ‘Nosferatu’ – but it could make for a nice modern take on this approach. But unfortunately. There is nothing tragically or dramatically interesting about the central group of leeches in the film, as they end up carrying out their “activities” simply for pleasure. At the same time, their drinking moments are not stimulating or exciting enough to get any entertainment out of them. In that sense, the ladies should have just been traditional vampires, who seductively approach their victims and place two large incisors on their necks. But alas, none of this. Once in the film the ladies throw themselves on a victim, but even then there is hardly any contact of the teeth with the flesh/body. It’s just dead boring. This while so much fuss is made about the secrets that will be revealed in the mansion at midnight. Then as a viewer you expect nice horror or bite moments, but no. The film is actually a big anticlimax. Also in a dramatic way. Interestingly – or could have been – that one of the women in the house is really starting to develop feelings for one of her (male) victims, but the reason for this is completely unclear, and at the end of the film there is the alleged love suddenly nothing left.

There is actually no real story or plot in the film, and the characters make incomprehensible decisions. The male protagonist has stolen money and only temporarily uses the house as a hiding place but then hangs around because he apparently wants to discover the danger or secret of the women that will come at midnight. When he enters the house, he apparently wants to know all about the women there and put them under pressure, also because he is being chased by an armed group of thieves that he has cheated. But when the two ladies retire to their room to make love, he suddenly appears to be in no hurry. How lucky the viewer is that he is given the opportunity to witness their tender lovemaking. When the killing is finally done, using daggers and the previously discussed scythe, it is a disappointingly bloodless spectacle. Only a stab is shown quite explicitly, but in the scythe killings there is no impact at all shown between weapon and victims, and there are hardly any wounds visible, just some red syrup on the heads and necks. Unfortunate. Unfortunately, beautiful images are also sparse. Well, the group of (quasi-)vampirettes with colored translucent robes are just as nice, but unfortunately portrayed a lot less inspired than in Rollin’s ‘Lèvres de Sang’. The acting isn’t exactly something to write home about either and the editor seems to have been asleep because of the strange time jumps where, for example, a character who has just run away a few seconds later suddenly appears in front of another person. No, apart from a few prompts for interesting content or anticipation of images or emotions that will never come, there is little fun to be had with ‘Fascination’.

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