French film history has more than its share of mavericks, but it has a special place for those few who worked in the realm of le cinéma fantastique. While Jean Cocteau and Georges Franju defined and dominated this realm, their poetics never fully succumbed to the horror genre’s call of the wild—and it fell to Jean Rollin, their rightful but underrecognized heir, to take the next step with his dark, oneiric oeuvre. Women were at the center of Rollin’s cinematic universe, anchoring deliriously gothic scenarios of lust and bloodlust couched in a lush and disturbing visual style. At a time when French censorship was easing, the director had free rein to work through his sex-and-death obsessions with unprecedented explicitness, imbuing his images with a gorgeous eroticism that can lull—at least until teeth are bared, whether metaphorically or literally. His dreamlike, seductive visuals and haunting milieus have surely influenced subsequent filmmakers who favor horror that’s as serious as it is sensual. Just in time for Halloween, the Quad showcases a dozen of Rollin’s unique excursions into the surreal and uncanny; we will also be screening, in an accompanying series this month, movies that share and acknowledge his aesthetic.
All titles courtesy of Kino Lorber in collaboration with Redemption Films