Louise (Alexandra Pic) and Henriette (Isabelle Teboul) are two orphaned sisters. They’re both blind and, as the nuns at the orphanage explains to Dr. Dennary (Bernard Charnacé), innocent to the ways of the world. When Dr. Dennary adopts them, everyone tells him that he’s made the right choice. Never have there been two sisters as sweet and beatific as Louise and Henriette.
Of course, what neither the nuns nor Dr. Dennary know is that, when the sun goes down, Louise and Henriette’s vision returns. They sneak out of Dennary’s home, exploring the nearby cemeteries and meeting other beings who can only move freely during the night. The sisters tells each other stories of their past and we see memories that seem to suggest that they have been alive for centuries. But, the sisters also often talk about how they can’t remember their past and it’s suggested that their “memories” are just stories that they’ve created to give themselves a history that they don’t otherwise possess.
At times, you wonder if they’re even sisters. Perhaps they’re just two vampires who manged to find each other at some point over the past few centuries. Still, you can never doubt the strength of their bond. When one of them is weak from a lack of blood, the other allows her to drink from her neck. When they find themselves being pursued by angry villagers, they refuse to be separated. Even if it means dying, at least they’ll die together.
Throughout the film, the orphans eagerly await for night to fall so that they can see and sneak out of the house. But, at the same time, they know that their time is limited. When the sun rises, they will again lose their sight. These vampires don’t need to sleep in coffins. In fact, they don’t need to sleep at all. But they need the night to see the world around them.
Unfortunately, Dr. Dennary may be kind-hearted but he’s still not happy about the idea of the two orphans sneaking out of his house during the night. When the sisters go to drastic means to ensure their freedom, they find themselves in even greater danger….
First released in 1997, The Two Orphan Vampires is perhaps my favorite Jean Rollin film. Rollin, himself, once described it was being one of his best films because it was a film that told a story that went beyond his own personal obsessions. That may be true but this is definitely a Jean Rollin film. It’s not just the use of the vampirism or the fact that frequent Rollin co-star Brigitte Lahaie has a cameo. It’s that the film centers not just on the supernatural but also the way that our memories and our fantasies can provide comfort in an uncertain world, which was a favorite Rollin theme. Whether their memories are true or not is not important. What’s important is that the two sisters share them.
In typical Rollin fashion, the movie unfolds at its own deceptively leisurely pace. The imagery is frequently dream-like, with the orphan vampires discovering an underworld of paranormal creatures. The film also reflect Rollin’s love of the old serials, with frequent cliffhangers. By the final third of the movie, you can already guess what’s going to end up happening to the two orphan vampires but I still had tears in my eyes by the time the end credits started to roll up the screen.
For whatever reason, Two Orphan Vampires seems to get a mixed reaction from several Rollin fans, who perhaps are disappointed that it’s considerably less bloody and/or sordid as some of Rollin’s other vampire films. The film is one of Rollin’s more contemplative films and it has more in common with The Night of the Hunted and The Iron Rose than some of Rollin’s other vampire films. That said, Two Orphan Vampires is my personal favorite of Rollin’s filmography. It’s a film that bring me to tears every time that I watch it.