Once again I dare to venture towards the cinematic delusions of Jean Rollin. After the double whammy of ‘Zombie Lake’ and bloody ‘Night of the Hunted’ I wowed never to touch anything else the man created, yet I found myself oddly drawn the 1978 movie ‘Grapes of Death’ and in the end gave it a watch.
One review I read elsewhere online really hit the nail on the head when they said something along the lines of "Rollin’s best" but then that’s not saying much. I couldn’t agree more.
The movies plot in itself is a bit of an odd ball. No doubt inspired by the successes of ‘Manchester morgue’ and ‘Night of the living dead’ (and believe me the similarities stop there) Rollin adds to the list of original ways to create zombies, and being typically arrogant as the French so commonly are, decides that wine is the way forward, well the pesticides sprayed on the grapes at least which corrupt the local population.
The plot itself begins well enough as a young girl discovers the seemingly deserted town and then finds herself plunged, companioned only by a blind girl, into a nightmare surrounded by the hungry un-dead. Certainly this movie begins stronger than either of the other Rollin movies I’ve viewed; aside from the vag-cam opener of Zombie Lake of course ;). A decent use of the old village setting, a constant emphasis on isolation and a reasonably eerie score help the builds the atmosphere well. After a few brief encounters and a couple of twists in the plot the pace was moving along nicely. Sadly though, as I knew it would, eventually the movie runs out of momentum at around the 50-55 minute mark leaving you with that tedious last half an hour which kills off so many movies.
I’m not going to completely write the movie off at this point though as there is one other point worth talking about, gore. I was amazed to tell you the truth, I had heard it was quite gory but didn’t really trust it, but it’s true, this movie does have some pretty decent gore scenes. As I say quite often, don’t expect a complete gore extravaganza but the odd scene here and there, including a decent decapitation about half way through, gives this movie the points it needs to claw its way into something worth watching.
Overall, all of the movies merits are discussed above, and whilst it might be Rollin’s best, it remains comfortably average. Still, be warned, despite some decent plot elements and the spattering of gore you must still endure countless scenes of lone women running from one place to another with very little going on in-between scenes and some embarrassingly scripted dialogue delivered by some less than amateur standard actors. As for me, if this is his best I’m staying well away from anything else which bares his name; that said I’ve made that statement before!