I thought after viewing the aptly named Vampyros Lesbos film that I had undertaken all the vampire lesbian films which existed in the world, as I have come to realize some years later, not only is the vampire lesbian film a well-represented segment within the horror genre, French born director Jean Rollin proved to be one of the premier filmmakers within the subject. I realize from the onset that my dislike for this film is not shared, and that there is a general consensus that Rollin as a filmmaker, and the vampire lesbian genre as a whole offer much to be enjoyed. With that in mind I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the cinematography and soundtrack within the film and despite being a rather weak plot, the movement around a metahistorical narrative was quite fun. Of course, these few moments of greatness are not enough to make the film soundly watchable. It becomes quite evident that at least a third of this film will be devoted to characters undressing themselves and each other only to build up to moments of sexuality that are for all intensive purposes soft-core erotica. Furthermore the already sexual composition of the film is worsened by the many on the nose references to phallic imagery and masculine endeavors of oppression which occur throughout the film. Even when the film appears as though it will be redemptive by portraying female characters in central roles of power, Rollin, ultimately, allows for what can only be describe as hysteria to take control of their actions, despite the clear suggestion that they are not human, but vampires. Unfortunately in the world of Rollin a female vampire is still a woman and, therefore, unable to properly control their emotions and engage without the slightest inkling of reason. Where Fascination could have been revolutionary it is exploitative and where it could have used sexuality in a contemplative a manner it simply comes across as trashy. Fascination is by no means a bad movie, it is indeed quite decent, however, its problematic moments are so egregious that they manage to detract from the movie considerably.
Set in 1905, Fascination begins with a group of upper class women stopping by a slaughter house to consume what is allegedly ox blood as a means to cure anemia. With little to no explanation the film then jumps to the narrative of a bandit named Marc (Jean-Marie Lemair) who is now on the run from a group of fellow criminals after a deal with heavy monetary value goes sour. Seeking refuge from his pursuers, Marc hides in a large castle hoping to evade them through nightfall and sneak away in the shadows. His plan is quickly curtailed, however, when he realizes that the castle that he assumed to be unoccupied is very much the opposite as indeed inhabited by two ethereal and beautiful young women named Eva (Brigitte Lahale) and Elisabeth (Franca Mai). Quickly asserting his masculine dominance, Marc demands that the two women obey his requests, as well as explain why the mansion is empty with the exception of the two of them. Blatantly dismissive and mocking towards Marc, it is revealed that Eva and Elisabeth are lovers and part of a satanic cult which is destined to meet at the caste at the stroke of midnight. As much confused and intrigued, Marc falls for the women, eventually sleeping with Eva, much to Elisabeth's demise, going so far as to use her to kill her pursuers in incredibly violent manners. Despite the various pleas by Elisabeth for Marc to leave, he decides to stay at the possiblity to spend a night in what he assumes to be a orgiastic cult ritual. However, with the emergence of the other women, who it is revealed have been consuming far more than ox blood, Marc become hesitant and attempts to extract himself from the events of the evening which have turned incredibly dark. Marc confesses his love to Elisabeth after rejecting her multiple times, an act Elisabeth notes before killing him only to leave with the head vampire woman, thus concluding the bizarre sex-laden story of Fascination.
I made it quite clear that I am not particularly fond of the manners in which sexuality manifests itself within Fascination. To me it is far more exploitative than it is metaphorical. Some of the acts of male sexual dominance are problematic in their rape like context and have no grounding on the films narrative advancement, this is certainly the case when Eva engages in intercourse with one of the bandits chasing Mark. It has no justification beyond the means to add another sex scene to a nudity filled work. In fact, the only scene in the film that is even remotely logical is the initial moment of intimacy between Eva and Elisabeth, but that goes on for far too long. Essentially, sexuality in Fascination is not earnest as it is in something like The Kids Are All Right, nor does it have the heavy political ambitions and implications of the controversial film Salo; Or the 120 Days of Sodom. Sex is just sex in Fascination attempting to mask itself as artful filmmaking. Even the metaphors with sexual implications are heavy-handed. Eva and Elisabeth's suggestions that their knives are silent, as they rub them across their lips and face are worthy of a double face-palm, while Elisabeth's stealing of Marc's clearly phallic gun only to put it in her mouth and contemplate suicide defies logic, in fact, Eva's possession of the scythe seems to be the only remotely well-executed use of metaphor in the entire work. Metaphor does not work within Fascination like it does in a work of Hitchcock's, hell metaphor just does not work in the world of Rollin. Things are forcefully and repetitiously explained to viewers as though the slightest moment lacking clarity would mean a complete failure to Rollin. If anything Fascination suffers from being too on the nose, while, simultaneously, having no idea what it is trying to say.
Key Scene: The moment when Eva emerges from the barn semi-nude with the scythe is cinematically oneiric.
Fascination is an alright film, not something that is dying to be viewed, should you be bored or just happen to be fixated on vampire lesbians then the watch instantly option of Netflix should prove just fine.