It’s fair to say that Jean Rollin’s films are something of an acquired taste. Slow, dreamy & minimal, they tread a thin line between elegiac arthouse & cheapo exploitation, almost as though Robert Bresson had suddenly decided to make films about lesbian vampires. Most people tend to simply write them off as being rubbish & borderline inept skinflick horrors that aren’t particularly satisfying as either. Fans – and I count myself as one – tend to look deeper & find a lingering resonance & off-kilter dreamlike sensibility that stays with the viewer long after the credits roll. Or maybe it’s just ‘cos we just really like pervy cheap eurohorror flicks, who knows?
Dating from 1993, Killing Car is one of Rollin’s least well-known films, & features none of his trademark vampires, which may make you approach it with some trepidation. Fear not, Rollin fans though, for this is unmistakably his work, featuring all the languid dreamy pacing, naked ladies & blood you would expect. If you simply want to know whether Killing Car is worth seeing, then it’s easy to figure out. If you’ve never seen one of his films, but after what you’ve read so far you think you might like to – don’t start here! Try Fascination, Demoniacs or Lips of Blood first & see how you like them; this is really one for converts only. As such, if you’ve seen one of his films but were unimpressed, you’re unlikely to enjoy Killing Car. However, if you are an admirer of the mans work already, there’s enough typical Rollin goodness here to please you.
Having said that, Killing Car does not rank amongst the directors very best films (though it’s no way near his worst either!). You don’t go into one of his films expecting much in the way of plot, and Killing Car features an almost non-plot series of enigmatic, episodic vignettes on a recurring theme, that are then loosely tied together at the conclusion. Each vignette centres around one or two characters who are surprised to see an American Car, which reminds them of something that happened a year ago, only to then be killed by a mysterious Asian woman. Obviously each section includes at least one woman who takes her clothes off. The ‘plot’ moves from France to stock footage of New York & back again, including a shootout at an empty fairground, a couple taking shelter in a rural farmhouse, a fashion photographer’s modelling session (with some rapid-fire editing), nightclub table dancing, a late night at the office and more! The sheer variety of each section prevents the film from becoming boring, & quite effectively masks the fact that its just one bit of plot repeated over & over. Throughout fans will enjoy seeing references to many of Rollin’s earlier films, including (but not limited to) the scythe from Fascination or grandfather clock of Le Frisson des Vampires. Hovering around in the background is a pair of cops who are ostensibly investigating this strange string of murders, although one of them seems quite astonishingly unconcerned by the increasing bodycount. Where the film falls down slightly compared to the directors best work is that it doesn’t quite have the same lingering emotional effect (though it’s certainly oddly captivating), & the different settings & need to constantly introduce new characters means that it lacks the uniform mood & style that helps the willing viewer to get lost in the surreal dreamscapes of a film like Fascination or Lips of Blood.
Redemption have released Killing Car onto UK DVD, which I believe may be its DVD debut as a PAL disc, although I’m unsure of any regional coding. Information on this film is pretty thin on the ground, so I’m not sure what the OAR is, but this disc presents the film in 4:3, & the composition doesn’t feel cramped & I didn’t get the impression I was missing any picture information, so I’m willing to assume it was shot this way. The transfer isn’t exactly first-rate, but it’s certainly watchable enough, even on quite a big TV. The box states that the disc includes an interview with Rollin & a music video, but I was unable to find these on the disc. I did, however, find a Rollin filmography, the video art, & a gallery of occasionally naked stills. Despite the paucity of features, the sheer rarity of the film is recommendation enough for Rollin fans, & Redemption are to be thanked for finally making the film available. Revenge themed films are very popular at the moment making this a very timely release, & a very individual addition to the genre.