Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Vineyard (1989)

I'm a big fan of James Hong, but even I had to question how competent a writer and director he could be. Aside from The Vineyard, the only other movies he directed were "Teen Lust", a late-seventies sex comedy and "Singapore Sling", a Shannon Tweed erotic thriller that I'm not sure anyone other than the people who worked on the film ever saw. Still, my interest was piqued, and besides, how bad could it be...?

Famous wine-maker/film producer Dr. Elson Po (Hong) has made a pact with an ancient Chinese god that allows him to live forever - in exchange for the odd human sacrifice, which is no big deal. Po keeps a steady supply of nubile young fillies in his basement so he can saw one up whenever the mood takes him, but lately the deal hasn't been working out so well, as Po is aging faster than ever. He invites a group of hip young actors to his home for a weekend, one of whom (Jezebel, played by former playmate Karen Witter, who is now married to the creator of Two And A Half Men) he has set his sights on as a potential bride for some reason. There's some more stuff in there, but I've probably lost you already.

From the start I knew this was going to be a weird movie. Any movie that features James Hong getting laid at the very beginning is probably going to be a bit... odd. Even so, there is some enjoyment to be had here seeing as The Vineyard manages to be both completely nonsensical and incredibly cheesy at once. Plot-wise the movie is a total mess - so much of what happens in the film just makes no sense whatsoever, and so many things are left totally unexplained. The pointless flashbacks into Dr. Po's past are the most annoying distraction here - not sure about anyone else but I tuned out the instant these scenes began. There are also momentary excursions into other genres, such as when it turns into a zombie movie for about 5 minutes, or best of all a ludicrous kung fu scene where the actors involved are clearly missing eachother by a few feet with each swing they take.

It's not all bad though, I guess. For one thing, the high levels of camp provide a lot of unintentional laughs. There are a few amazing 80's dance party scenes, and an almost unbelievable scene where Dr. Po causes one of the young actors to basically jizz in his pants by performing acupuncture on his neck. It's all hugely entertaining in it's awfulness, but also kind of worrying that it seems to have been made without a hint of irony. The one effective horror scene finds one of the female leads puking up spiders, which fucked me up due to my mortal fear of spiders, but other than that it's slim pickings.

Unfortunately, The Vineyard falls apart in the final 30 minutes, and begins to drag badly. The whole process of Dr. Po trying to woo Jezebel into being his eternal bride is painfully tedious. Even worse, while all this is going on the film focuses on the two most forgettable characters as they spend endless time fighting Po's henchmen and basically running around trying to look stressed out. There's also an awful storyline about Jezebel's friend uncovering Po's secret through his history as a wine-maker that's only worth mentioning because it's so pointless. It's all just really boring, which is a shame because the first hour is highly entertaining. The film also suffers from a lack of gore save for one shoddy decapitation scene, and the special effects are cheap and half-assed. There's probably no need to say that the acting is appalling save for Hong, but even here he's not the best.

It's a shame that The Vineyard is so uneven. If only Hong had maintained the fun, cheesy atmosphere of the first half througout, it would have been a riot.

Anyway, here's a clip of everyone in the film prancing around like absolute dickheads:

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