Thursday, 20 August 2009

Grapes of Death

Title: Grapes of Death
Director: Jean Rollin
Released: 1978

Staring: Marie-Georges Pascal, Felix Maten, Serge Marquand

Rating: 2 / 5

Plot: Elisabeth (Pascal) is on the train to see her boyfriend, when she is attacked by a man with a strange skin condition. Fleeing the train she finds herself stranded in a remote wine making village, where pesticides have caused the local villagers to go insane.

Review: So finally I’ve got round to watching a film by Jean Rollin, who is probably best known for his work in the horror genre, with this film being the first French gore film. He is also a director who has received numerous amounts of praise from both Jenn over at “The Cavalcade of Perversions” aswell as the “Vicar of VHS” which I saw as being more than enough to hunt out a bunch of his films, with the intention of making some sort of season out of it here on the blog, in much the same way as I did for Ozploitation Month. Sadly after sitting through this film I might be putting some space between this review and my next look at one of his films, as I found this film largely inaccessible, despite reading numerous comments from fan’s of his work who claim, that this is in-fact his most accessible film, which kind of doesn’t bode well for the other films of his I still have left to watch.

I should start really by clearing up the slightly misleading description which came, on the cover of my DVD version which describes this film as a “Erotic Zombie Classic” which are not really the words I would have used to describe it, seeing how the insane villagers are pretty much that insane with a slightly nasty looking skin infection and outside of the shambling horde they form, they share very little in common with what many would consider to be the traditional description of a zombie. As for erotic, outside of a few shots of naked women, there is nothing even remotely erotic to be found here.
“Grapes of Death” was a rare departure for Rollins, who is more usually associated with Vampire films and here appears to be throwing his hat in the ring, by giving his take on the Zombie genre, with the film baring a large amount of similarities especially in terms of atmosphere to George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, though were Romero used sporadic moments of explosive action, as he slowly cranks the tension, it is clear that Rollins intended to do the same here as well, though failing to achieve the same effect, as outside of a few moments such as Elizabeth’s meeting with the blind girl Lucy and their eventual discovery of the village, the majority of these moments fail to build any can of tension, for the viewer and only serve to increase the boredom of having to watch Elizabeth run around another set of empty fields.
The plot is pretty straightforward with Elizabeth running from scene to scene with only a seemly unaffected Bridget (Bridget Lahaie) appearing in the third act to break things up slightly, though no reason is ever given for how she has escaped being infected, nor why she is acting like some form of cultist?
Despite being largely devoid of gore, the few scenes which we do get are particularly graphic, including a beheading and a father attacking his infecting daughter with a pitchfork, but for those watching the film with any form of intrest, the majority of these effects come off more cheesy than scary, thanks mainly to poor execution. However the make up effects for the infected are particularly effective and on occasion, actually left me feeling kind of queasy, while wondering if these infected were any form of inspiration for the more OTT zombies seen in Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” (2007)? While watching I also couldn’t help but think of “Resident Evil 4” especially in the terms of setting, as the isolated village is certainly a welcome change from the usual deserted city, which are all so familiar with the zombie genre and here it works well to provide some kind of tension, which is constantly being lost either through the painfully slow moving nature of the plot, or those bizarre occasional bursts of Synthesiser music, which pop up through out the film, only to end suddenly when a scene changes.

All in all this wasn’t a great first jaunt into the world of Jean Rollins and I hope that this is perhaps just not the film for me, much like Jean-Luc Godard’s “Weekend” (1967) which like a lot of Rollins work, has received a large amount of praise, the reasons for which I have never been able to decipher and it is really my hope that with further viewings that I might finally discover those reasons which have put him in such high regard.

1 comment:

  1. I can understand why you wouldn't like this movie because it's a bit weird, but I actually loved it. I've only seen three Rollin movie so far (Grapes Of Death, Fascination, Living Dead Girl) and this one is my favorite so far. I liked the village setting, I thought the blind girl was hilarious, and the randomness of Brigitte Lahaie's character added a surreal element to it all. I'm not in a big hurry to see more Rollin films but I did enjoy this one. Fascination is great also and I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on that one. Living Dead Girl was kinda boring.


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