18 June 2024
The Vineyard (1989)
95 min.
Directed by James Hong, William Rice.
With James Hong, Karen Lorre, Michael Wong, Lars Wangberg, Cheryl Madsen, Rue Douglas, Sean P. Donahue, and Sherri Ball.
Jose Cruz

A creative though mostly forgettable affair that meshes old fashioned black magic with a late-80s slasher sensibility.

Dr. Elson Po (Hong) is an acclaimed vintner who is learned in the ways of ancient Chinese mysticism and the art of making a damn fine glass of wine. He has had much time to acquire these skills, seeing as how he’s also an age-old sorcerer who must drink an elixir of human blood in order to retain his youth.

When a bevy of young pretty people come to Po’s island with the intent of auditioning for a movie that the good doctor is making, they find that their host has a great sense of hospitality. But when they cross Po—or when he needs some more plasma for his brew—he uses his dark arts to kill them one by one.

With a dungeon full of tortured captives, a garden packed with wriggling zombies, a shrieking banshee running around, and a gang of muscle-bound, mulleted guards at Po’s disposal, will any of our fresh-faced youths live to sniff another vintage again?

Although The Vineyard manages to combine its diverse genre tropes to fresh effect, it’s all hampered by the comedic vibe that grew into prominence in the late 80s and soldiered on to contaminate the horror fare of the next decade. With its flat cinematography, idiot characters, and damnable goofiness (check out that party scene), The Vineyard seems like a leftover from the oeuvre of Full Moon Pictures. Yecck!

Hong (Big Trouble in Little China) is sporting enough as the main villain, but even he doesn’t have much else to do besides snarl “Where’s my amulet?” under some rubbery makeup. No one else is really worth mentioning—a cast of nobodies that fulfills the purpose of dying when they have to.

The death scenes on hand are pretty nifty, especially the acupuncture mutilation and a gross “mouthful of spiders” scene, giving the film a fun Dr. Phibes vibe. But they’re not quite enough to enliven the picture (see the limp attack by the garden zombies at the climax).

You could always watch it, but chances are there’s something better.

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