Swish that Swill

Posted on Jul 27, 2012 in 80's Horror, All Reviews, Giant Turds | 4 comments

THE VINEYARD (1989)

The VineyardThe Tavern of Terror is a horror bar as well as a website that revels in the joy of getting drunk and watching underground horror films. How could I not review an underground horror movie about making wine?  The Vineyard was not only an enticing choice because of these coinciding themes, but also because James Hong wrote, directed, and stars in the film. Hong is best known as David Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China, the greatest movie ever made.  He was also in a few episodes of All in the Family, the greatest television show ever made, and therefore anything he does is worth a look.

I also watched this movie on the same day I ordered the bar, which is kind of cool.

The movie, however…

Well…..

The movie begins with macabre winemaker Dr. Elson Po (Hong) and his younger trophy wife who is shockingly unfaithful. Nightmares haunt Po but his waking life is far more ghastly, with a wine dungeon filled with slaves from which he and his assistants brew blood-infused “fountain of youth” wine, made so through ancient Chinese witchcraft. This is a take-it-or-leave-it premise here. No gray area. You either dig this or you turn on The Facts of Life marathon instead.

Hong hams it up as Po, who is a thousand years old or something and vampirishly needs this bloody beverage to stay alive. He gets even campier when talking to his evil statue. Po has to keep busy, after all, because for some reason he certainly isn’t wasting any time trying to cover up his ghastly crimes.  Hell, his vineyard is full of roaming zombies and that doesn’t even concern him. It shouldn’t though, because your local haunted house attraction has better looking zombies than he does.

Po decides to throw a party in an effort to get even more victims. Among the fodder is a suspicious young reporter named Jeremy Young, awkwardly played by a guy who looks a lot like the pederast from Kinjite; Forbidden Subjects. Also in the group of youths is Jezebel Fairchild, a real looker with a name so ridiculous that even strippers wouldn’t use it. Po proceeds to entertain his guests with 80’s synth music and stereotypical Asian dancing in gold masks. He completes the only-in-a-movie party scene, with some lame pranks that everyone finds amusing and hilarious when they are neither. These guest are having a real hoot. I guess no one told them that they’re only there to be harvested.

From here on it gets even stupider.

Po uses Chinese voodoo on his guests (including one very homoerotic acupuncture scene) to make them barf spiders and see things. His henchmen do the rest. While this goes on we also get treated to Po’s back story via campy flashbacks that are even more horribly done than the rest of this steaming pile.

Jezebel & PoJezebel and Po go on to have a date during which she seems to try and seduce him (Hong’s ego meddling with the script a little?), after which she lingers in the vineyard looking pretty and spellbound. Jeremy blathers on to try and flesh out a plot for us, but we don’t give a shit by now. He does suspect Po of being some kind of Chinese Dracula, which is kind of a hilarious idea in and of itself, but Jeremy is so unbelievably terrible in performing these little monologues that you find yourself wishing that any vampire, even those poofs from Twilight, would come in and kill you so you could stop watching this movie.

The film just never, ever, picks up.

Eventually it is up to Jezebel’s friends to save her from being sacrificed to the dark lords which will immortalize Po. If this isn’t a blatant rip-off of Lo Pan, then it’s a damn good joke. Throw in a stupid finale that can’t be over fast enough and you have the ultimate shame of Hong’s career.

FINAL THOUGHTS

For all its camp, you’d think this movie would be more entertaining. But there’s a reason Hong keeps it off of his highlight reel. This is his Maximum Overdrive. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Hong this year and he is a funny and personable man. I proudly display my Lo Pan autograph here in the bar. I’m just glad he decided to stick to acting after this sad writer/director effort.

Poorly written, directed, and acted.
Bursting with piss-poor characters including protagonists you don’t care about, being chased by villains who aren’t scary or interesting.
This is a one of those late 80’s horror movies with a shockingly low body count. Sorry, Hong. This isn’t Blade Runner. It’s not even Missing in Action for Christ’s sake. It’s a shame this movie isn’t even more obscure than it already is. It really needs to be forgotten.
Now lets watch Big Trouble in Little China for the millionth time to rinse this swill out of our heads.

  • RATING: a big, fat ZERO.
  • CHICK OF THE LITTER: Well, Jezebel is played by former Playboy playmate Karen Witter (Popcorn, Buried Alive). Enough said.

BARTENDER’S NOTES

Get the cheapest box of wine you can find and drink the whole thing so you blackout before this movie ends. With any luck you won’t even remember it.

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4 Comments

  1. Voodoo, zombies, vampires, homoerotism, and barfing up spider! Sounds like this film has it all. I can remember some halloween parties I’ve been to that were similar to this. I like the idea of wine slaves. That sounds like the high life. Bukowski proably could have benefited from wine slaves. This movie sounds like a lot of fun. Especially if the bombastic boob broad in the bottom pic is in it. All though I would up the ante and go with mad dog 20/20 instead of box wine. Cheers!

  2. Karen Witter is fun to look at, and Mad Dog would improve the viewing experience for sure! MAD DOG 20/20… is there anything it CAN’T do?

  3. Even if i had not seen the movie (too many times probably) that review would still make me really want to watch it ! nice job :-) it is a bad movie though, but i dunno i have a strange affection for it…Might have to watch it again soon..Will get some alcohol when i do !

  4. Yeah, me too! Its a turd but I could never resist this kind of flick. Some are so bad they’re good. This is a real stinker but I jumped at the chance to see it.

What do you think?