Monday, October 28, 2013

SYNAPSE FILMS APPRECIATION WEEK: The Grapes of Death - Zombies Au Vin

It’s funny that I have just endured 24 hours of horror movies featuring Toxic Zombies, a zombie film based around the premise that a pesticide is creating the living dead, because I’m here today to discuss The Grapes of Death. Grapes of Death works around a very similar plot device only came out two years early. The Jean Rollin classic doesn’t necessarily own this origin du zombie outright. It reminds of the zombie resurrection method in Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue that featured a piece of agri-machinery that made the zombies rise from the grave. It is, however, an important entry in zombie cinema. How many French zombie flicks can you name? How often the consumption of wine turn into zombie outbreak and potential end of the word? Continuing our Synapse Films Appreciation Week, we give you a review of their release of The Grapes of Death aka Les Raisins de la Mort. Don’t let the name fool you; this has nothing to do with the Grapes of Wrath.

Synopsis from Synapse Films:

A vacation with a friend turns into a horrifying nightmare when a young woman flees from a train, only to stumble into a remote village overtaken by its zombie-like inhabitants. One by one, the townspeople are slowly turning into violent, decomposing killers and the local winery may hold the key to the hellish transformations. Perhaps the pesticide used in the grape field does more than just kill insects…


After reading so much about this film and understanding its place in undead history I can say that it is an impressive watch with moments of original zombie lore especially for 1978. Grapes of Death wont’ be your favorite zombie movie, but it will have a place in your heart. It’s filled with beautiful, Rollin-gore and blood with B level effects and of Brigette Lahie, Rollin’s staple actress of feature. As I become more familiar with Rollin’s work, Lahaie plays a huge part in his success and her efforts in Grapes of Death are equal to her work in Fascination. Though I cannot say that Grapes of Death is my favorite Rollin film, Fascination and Night of the Hunted come before it, I did thoroughly enjoyed his distinctly European style of storytelling, camera work and music selection.

Grapes seems to follow the traditional Rollin pattern of two women versus the world. This model seems to permeate each of the films I’ve watched from him. Rollin also features a typical theme, science versus nature. This was central to Living Dead Girl and Night of the Hunted. His over the top gore and blood to sex ratio feels as much a Rollin staple as it would a Jess Franco standard though I think Franco is more gratuitous, the zombie/living dead makeup almost contradicts the quiet, subtle beauty we’ve come to expect from Rollin who goes for sexy over scary and let’s your mind fill in all the horror bits between erotic nightmarish images.

The disc itself features a wide screen, digital transfer in French with fresh English subtitles. Included you’ll find a theatrical trailer, biography and filmography as well as beautiful liner notes from Nigel J. Burrell. The main point of interest in the features that accompany the feature film should be the video interview with Rollin himself and Brigette Lahaie. The transfer is a good one.

This film is obviously perfect for a night of fine dining include your favorite Cote du Rhone (my favorite French wine). Just be prepared to see your meal along with the wine some time later if Rollin’s special effects impress. Maybe you’ll even transform into a zombie. Either way, this movie is perfect for a romantic night in with your significant other who appreciates foreign cinema.

You can pick up The Grapes of Death from Synapse Films NOW.


1 comment:

  1. Nothing sets the mood like a dude screaming "I love you" while hacking a girl up. I really gotta watch "Night of the Hunted".