The Grapes of Death/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
The film begins innocently enough with the sights of field workers spraying pesticide in a vineyard at a French countryside. But just moments later, we observe one of the workers looking unsteady (As the camera slowly zooms in on his face looking in agony) a bad sign of things to come. We then cut to the interior of a train where Elizabeth (Marie-Georges Pascal), being joined by a friend, are on their way to visit Elizabeth's boyfriend who's located near the winery. The train later makes a stop to pick up a passenger. Look who it is! It's none other than the guy who we saw having problems earlier. In a fairly suspenseful sequence, the worker takes a seat in the same train cabin as Elizabeth. Elizabeth takes notice of this strange fellow and spots a grotesque skin defect on his face which seems to spread...And spread..And spread! Elizabeth finally leaps out of the cabin and finds the man trying to attack her. Making matters more delirious, Elizabeth runs into the dead body of her friend on her way out of the train. Hitting the emergency brake, Elizabeth escapes from the train and runs deep into the unknown countryside. She'll eventually find small villages for help. But help is the last thing she'll find here. Because the same plague that has infected her train attacker has now been spread all over, for what appears to be, this entire county! Even when Elizabeth locates non-infected people, they still manage to become unreliable, unpredictable, and unrtrustworthy. All Elizabeth wants to do is find her boyfriend. But even if she somehow survives this apocalyptic nightmare, all this horror is bound to leave Elizabeth completely insane.
Well, considering that I got off to a shaky start when discovering the works of Jean Rollin, I was glad to have found yet another surprisingly good film from France's king of erotic-horror. But here he managed to provide a great effort on playing with the zombie genre (Though I don't fully consider this one to be a zombie movie. More on that later) One thing that I really admired about this film was that if you take away the contemporary devices and wardrobe seen in the film, the movie still plays very well in fitting as an 18th-century (Or even older) horror tale with it's remote village setting.
Other things I liked was that the explanation for how the plague was started was only summed up in about 15 seconds. I hate horror movies that take so much time lingering on the "How's" and "Why's" explaining how everything originated, so it's refreshing to see no-nonsense answers like this. Other good things involve the non-infected characters that Elizabeth runs into. As mentioned before, it's unsettling to the viewer that Elizabeth has to endure the betrayal of trustworthy characters but what's also startling is the sudden (And often gruesome) demise of the characters that Elizabeth (As well as you, the viewer) go to trust. Speaking of gruesomeness, it's gone on record that this is one of the more gory films you'll find in Rollin's resume, and from what I've seen so far, I'd have to agree. I wasn't able to find out who provided the makeup/special effects for this movie, but let's just say that if you're a big fan of Giannetto De Rossi's work, you'll find some nice similarities with the makeup and splatter effects. Finally, we come to the ending. I have to admit that I wasn't entirely crazy about the conclusion, but now that I think more of it, a true horror movie has to be a film that disturbs you.
So even if the film has somewhat of a downer ending, this works in it's favor in letting you know what true horror is. If there was only one setback I had with the movie, it would be the film score. Since the musical score was used minimally all throughout, the sounds of silence in this horror landscape seemed to make things much creepier. But when the (Often tacky) keyboard score would show up, it would seem to ruin the experience. But this is just a very minor complaint since I enjoyed everything else so much. So to some it all up, this is good zombie movie---Wait, forget I said that. What I meant was, as Umberto Lenzi would like to say, "They are not ZOMBIES! They are INFECTED PEOPLE! So let me re-phrase that...This is a good "Infected-People Movie" for you to track down.
Reviewed by Laydback