An island of death fueled by the blood of its victims.
Director: James Hong
Writer: James Hong
Writer: James Hong
Stars: James Hong, Karen Witter, Michael Wong
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Studio: Arrow Video
Arrow Video's latest Arrowdrome release is The Vineyard, the 1989 film directed by James Hong, the world's most prolific character actor.
Eccentric winemaker Dr. Elson Po (James Hong) invites several actors to his island home under the guise of a movie audition. Here's the thing, there's no movie, and Po is a deranged lunatic who plans to chain all of the actors up in a dungeon and harvest their blood for nefarious purposes. You see, Dr. Po is actually a couple of centuries old, and he maintains his middle agedness with a cocktail of human blood and shavings from an ancient green amulet he wears around his neck. If he goes too long without his plasma elixir he ages hundreds of years in under a minute and shrivels up like a freeze dried mummy.
Po's amulet is quickly deteriorating and he plans to use one of the actresses named Jezebel (March 1982 Playmate Karen Witter, who doesn't do any nudity here, if you're wondering) to create a new amulet. I'm not quite sure how one makes an amulet from a human, but he spends pretty much the entire movie trying to convince her to stay on the island so he can tie her up and perform a ritual that will result in a brand new amulet which will extend his life for several hundred more years.
In addition to the actors a nosy nerd named Jeremy (played by Michael Wong, who also performed "spider wrangling" duties on the film) has also shown up to interview the mysterious Po, but instead stumbles upon the doctor's deadly and terrifying past and his plans for Jezebel. Will Jeremy and the rest of the actors be able to stop Po and his henchmen before it's too late? Probably. You'll need to watch to find out, though.
A beefy guy who doesn't know what the word libido means loses his ineffectual cranium. One of the hotter actresses barfs up several live spiders, which is probably a fetish somewhere I hope to never visit. There is an unusually large number of survivors in this film, but many hired goons meet their doom, mostly by being impaled on swords or branches. Dr. Elson frequently finds himself late for taking his rejuvenation juice, so we have several fun rapid aging effect sequences, complete with face lightning.
Did I mention the zombies? There are zombies. They never pose much of a threat though, so no gut munching or brain scarfing ensues. These are the least buried zombies I've ever seen, they're so close to the surface it's like they've pulled the earth over themselves at the end of the day like a soil blanket to keep themselves warm at night. They're literally like half an inch under the ground - a few of them even have their deteriorated heads sticking out of the ground like they're on the poster from Dead & Buried. So yeah, decently gruesome, probably about a 4.5 on the grossometer. It would've been a 4, but one of the actresses did have actual live spiders falling out of her mouth so I bumped it up a half a point.
Acupuncture Wound Massacre
Zombie Spazz Attack
Zombie Neck Tie
Live spider regurgitation
James Hong has been great in so many things and I hate to say anything negative about his work - he was David Lo Pan for God's sake - but I have to say The Vineyard is a hell of a stupid film. The acting is poor, the effects work is shoddy and worst of all there's a brutally long and awful dance party scene early in the film that never seemed like it would end. Any of you who have ever made the unwise decision to watch Gore-met Zombie Chef From Hell - a 67-minute film with about 42 minutes of filler - will remember a 6 minute long scene where Zombie Chef just dances around with some coked up hookers. The dancing from The Vineyard isn't quite Gore-met level awful, but it comes close.
However, even with those negative aspects, under the right circumstances (drunk) there is a cheesy good time to be had here with a mad scientist, pitchfork attacks, random unexplained zombies and a jock in a half shirt (see screenshot 9). This new Arrowdrome release is very light on extras, on the disc a theatrical trailer, inside the case are liner notes from Calum Waddell. Not an essential film, but worth a look for cheesy 80's horror fans and people who really like James Hong. Pick it up directly from Arrow.