13th Jun2013

‘The Vineyard’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: James Hong, Karen Lorre, Michael Wong, Lars Wangberg, Cheryl Madsen, Cheryl Lawson, Rue Douglas, Sean P. Donahue, Sherri Ball, Karl-Heinz Teuber | Written and Directed by James Hong

The-Vineyard-2

Crackpot scientist and celebrated winemaker Dr. Elson Po has made the ultimate discovery: the secret to everlasting life. As with all good things, however, there s an inevitable downside; and a bunch of good-looking and horny youngsters, invited to Dr Po’s island under the premise of an audition , are about to find out the hard way. When the vineyard starts to give up its dark secrets, these doomed teens will have to contend not only with Dr. Po and his kung-fu fighting henchmen but also with a rotting gang of marauding zombies.

The Vineyard is yet another in the long line of luridly-covered VHS tapes that I rented as a teenager in the early 90s. You see we had a VCR back in the early days of the booming format that was rented from a local hire shop, who also used to also be the only stockists of VHS tapes in town, but it wasn’t until 1993, when I turned 16, that I had my own VCR, bought with my own money and housed in my own room. It was then that I used to hit up the local video store each and every night for another slice of horror and exploitation (I was a big teenager so easily passed for 18 even at 16, plus the local store owners were friendly enough to know my mum didn’t mind me renting scary flicks). Best of all? The shop used to rent older titles at a pound a week, which meant that I could afford to rent one a night and I could watch it as many times as I liked in that week.

So what does this have to do with The Vineyard? Well, thanks to the freakish image on the VHS cover, that was one flick I rented and re-watched again and again! And now the film hits DVD courtesy of Arrow’s sub-label Arrowdrome and some 15-20 years after last seeing the film I get the chance to re-evaluate what was, at the time, a trashy favourite.

There’s always a worry when revisiting movies from your youth that what you remember bears no relation to the actual movie or if it does, that the film turns out to be a complete let down. I distinctly remember The Vineyard being batshit insane – and thankfully it still is! Although I do remember the film being a little more gratuitous – no doubt I’ve been desensitized by all the needless sleaze and violence in todays “extreme” horror flicks. Thats not to say the film isn’t somewhat gratuitous, within the first 10 minutes there’s naked chicks, a disfigured James Hong and a brief dose of violence; and the pace doesn’t really let up for the rest of the film… If it’s not some martial arts mayhem, James Hong ranting and raving or some gratuitous 80s disco dancing, it’s a basement dungeon full of skimpily-clothed nubiles chained up on the walls!

The kind of film that could only be made in the 80s, and I mean that in the fondest way possible, The Vineyard is like watching the thoughts of a lunatic projected on to the screen – and that lunatic just happens to be the go-to token Asian guy James Hong (fresh off the back of Big Trouble in Little China and The Golden Child). Who would’ve thought that the venerable Asian actor – pulling directing, acting and screenwriting duties this time round – could churn out such a schlocky masterpiece? I just wish someone who give him the money and the free-reign to have another go at crafting another slice of sleaze.

If you like your horror to err on the side of exploitation and sleaze and come with a huge serving of 80s cheese then this is for you. As for me – this is definitely one DVD that will be a cherished addition to my collection. Thankfully Arrowdrome’s DVD looks uh-mazing, especially considering this isn’t a well-regarded fear flick.

The Vineyard is out now on DVD from Arrow’s Arrowdrome imprint.

**** 4/5

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