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July 31, 2013

Movie Review: The Vineyard (1989, New World/Arrow)

...as might be the same to some of you fine genre-loving film freaks out there, this viewer has a good number of movies in his varied andf accumulated collection of films (...mine numbers in the 13,000's, as far as titles; how about yours, eh??), which on a whole, are not particularly great, and yet strangely still keepable in the sense that, in happenstance stumbling upon the odd, misfit of a film, when parousing for something else, one cannot help but irresistibly pull out and blow the dust off the oddball...dimly recalling how unremarkable it was, upon last viewing...and giving it another chance (...I mean, really...it couldn't have been THAT bad, right??)...perhaps even, in watching it in a different light, or a different mood, to find something sorely missed, on previous viewings. In the end, upon final credits roll, self-exclaiming, "...ah, now THAT'S why I found it so unremarkable..", putting it back in it's original, carefully preserved slot on the shelf...and yet, performing this whole ritual again, some months...even years later. Come on, you KNOW you do this, right?? Well, this viewer finds himself many a-time, doing this very thing...and in fact, in being afforded an opportunity to re-examine the rather odd, uneven and waywardly all-over-the-place 1986 horror flick, "The Vineyard", I was prepared and determined to find something in the film, this time around, to relish and embrace...to find that elusive sheen in the turd, so to speak. Uh, what was it, that someone once said about 'famous last words"??...


...with the film getting right to the point, we open up herein, by being introduced to Dr. Elson Po (James Hong), a renowned wine maker and movie producer, who with the help of a magic amulet and a necessarily oft-consumed special potion...an elixir, the main ingredient of which just happens to be human blood...has kept himself eternally young and virile for hundreds of years. With a growing 'garden' of discarded human 'empties' in the nearby thicketed woods, just on the outskirts of his isolated island villa, and a grossly deplenished bevvy of slowly-drained captive beauties, chained up in his basement, Dr. Po graciously invites a new group of enthusiastic, attractive and thoroughly unwary young '80's stereotypes to his island...unbeknownst to them, to replenish his 'stock'. Affording the visitors a facade of seductive generosity and indulgence, Dr. Po entertains the young people, exuding a youthful stamina, vigorously enough to party down with the wild group, as well as amazing them with his adept and keen skills at Chinese mysticism and voodoo. As the group's numbers begin to diminish, in very gruesome manners, and suspicions begin to arise, an irrefutable and horrific truth comes to light...involving the doctor's nefarious & diabolical scheme, the quite deliberating & hallucinogenic wine that he serves, the rising & subsequent siege of a most vengeful living dead...and an ancient, albeit cursed and eternally imprisoned goddess...innocent and humanitarian...who once possessed the power of the immortals...until it was stolen by...

...keeping things in the zone, as far as 'bad' cinema, this viewer cannot help but quote a line from Edward Nygma, who at some point in 1995's "Batman Forever", mindlessly babbles on about "...too many questions...there's just too many questions...". Such is the case, in engaging the rather random and inexplicable goings-on, in "The Vineyard". For starters, what's with the 'holy dirt', which is said to to be the only thing capable of holding down the zombified unfortunates, buried in the backwoods?? Watching the film, one eventually finds out who the old woman is, locked up in one of the villa's rooms (...though most viewers will figure that one out, earlier than later); however, WHY is she locked up?? Her presence, or her lack of, doesn't seem to affect the proceedings, either way. Whether by his magic, or by his direct hand, Dr. Po graphically dispatches his hapless island visitors, one by one...uh, save one...the only one who is smart enough to put the puzzle pieces together, as far as what horrors the good doctor has up his sleeve; heck, the doctor even knows that this last person knows about his plans, and he STILL doesn't kill that person...Why?? And what's with the amulet, and the potion?? What are their secrets?? What are they made of?? Where did they come from?? When one gets right down to it...they're...uh, they're just there. Ah, yes...too many questions...there's just too many questions...and not an answer to be found...sigh...

...Granted, there ARE some good points to this incomprehensible mess of a film. One of the victims, succumbing to the effects of the tainted wine, upchucks a gaggle of scurrying spiders, which proceed to lay siege upon the victim's face...very creepy. The fight scenes herein, seem plentiful, albeit unconventional, what with the use of swords, crossbows, and even a bit of martial arts display. The overall atmosphere of the proceedings, horror-film-wise, seem adequately unnerving and uncomfortable, most of the time, even with the decayed, flaky-faced animated corpses, running around (...not to mention, great use of the famous 'Phantasm' house/mausoleum). Of course, what film of this ilk, from this particular era, WOULDN'T have a considerable cache of gratuitous sex...even a little on the level of soft-core porn...and with James Wong's 'Dr. Po' character participating, no less (...knowing that veteran actor and cult film fav James Wong, who appears to be having the time of his life here, both behind and in front of the camera, also oversaw the direction this little horror ditty, his 'participation' in such scenes, bring to mind the Mel Brooks line, in 1981's "History of the World, Part One", where at one point, a character he plays says, "...it's GOOD to be the king!!").

...overall, this one's a curious, albeit creepy little head-scratcher...a very rampantly uneven, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink patchwork engagement...lazily and sloppily written...with forgivable cheezy dialog and a melding of concepts & ideas never fully fleshed out, realized and executed. One of those irresistible bad movies, which one cannot help but revisit, from time to time, if only to ponder upon how one might perhaps improve things. This ardent viewer often wonders why the movie-making powers that be, are always remaking movies that were pretty damn good, to begin with, when there are so many terrible movies out there, that if placed in the right hands and given the 'remake' treatment, might embrace new and respectable life. Uh, attention, movie-making people out there?? A spotlight over here, please..."The Vineyard" might well be one of those kinds of movies, OK??...Come get it...Come rescue it...I mean, surely, you can't do any worse than THIS, right?? (...uh, then again...there's one of those wretched 'famous last words' scenarios, creeping up again...)...

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