The horror community lost one of its unique own today with the just announced passing of French director Jean Rollin. Highly prolific, yet largely obscure, Rollin kept French horror alive long before the New Wave of Gallic Gore represented by such films as Martyrs, Inside and High Tension came to be, carrying the torch even when his fellow countrymen shied away from genre material.
Rollin’s films mixed the sensual and the savage, equally meant to be as erotic as they were horrific. As such the filmmaker often dabbled in stories of vampires, often portrayed as young, pillow-lipped beauties in gauzy nightgowns (and often much less) aimlessly about Gothic ruins, often starring his frequent muse Brigitte Lahaie. Bereft of decent budgets, Rollin strived to raise his films above their exploitation origins, imbuing them with a dreamy poeticism and streak of surreality that marked them as different from its fellow schlock brethren. Rollin directed films under numerous aliases, many of them while as a director of hardcore porn, a job that never felt comfortable to the auteur (in fact, despite the abundant nudity and eroticism in his films, Rollin was embarassed by asking his actors to disrobe.)
Rollin’s films — bearing titles like The Nude Vampire, Lips of Blood, Shiver of the Vampires, The Grapes of Death (a foray into zombie filmmaking) and The Living Dead Girl — aren’t meant for everyone, plagued as they can be by indifferent acting, slow pacing and vague narratives, but the director’s uneven output as long been embraced by the more adventurous of horror aficionados. Though Rollin’s output has waned in recent years, he had kept working until his death at age 72, completing his most recent picture, The Mask of Medusa. While for many, Rollin’s name will warrant little more than a curious, confused glance, for some, his artfully sexualized horrors have long earned a place in the hearts of horror fans the world over. Our sympathies go out to the family of Jean Rollin, a one-of-a-kind cinema maverick who shall be missed.