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The Vineyard (1989)

'The Vineyard' is an American 'Horror' film Directed by prolific Hollywood actor James Hong and William Rice. Not only does Hong co-direct this film but he co-wrote the screenplay and also takes on the lead acting role as antagonist Dr Po. Hong, clearly not knowing whether he wanted this to be a horror movie or some form of 80's action hybrid, 'The Vineyard' introduces some of the most conventionalized bond-style villains and hence men that steer the course of the film's plot, complete with multiple kung fu fight scenes.

If you ever wondered what it would be like to combine the 'Dawn of the Dead' with a smattering of 'Enter the Dragon' and 'Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom', you get 'The Vineyard'. This complete miss mash of genres ultimately results in an overly convoluted mess. And whilst having the odd moment of hope, there is very little here to bring me back for another watch. If anything this film feels more like a Hong-centric passion project than any form of audience-digestible movie.

The casting is quite frankly abysmal. With the exception of lead antagonist Dr Po, played by Hong, everyone else delivers some of the most unengaging and lacklustre efforts I have seen put to screen. Playboy playmate Karen Witter is undoubtedly the worst of the group. Every scene she is in caused me to lose focus on the plot and fixate on her incapability to deliver a single convincing line of dialogue. I do, however, feel like Hong's writing is partially to blame for this.

Given everything else around it, I do think the use of practical makeup effects is quite impressive. The combination of the makeup department and the use of clever camera editing makes for some rather entertaining ageing transition scenes. As well as this, there are multiple zombie-like victims scattered throughout that are very reminiscent of something you would find in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead. And whilst these zombie-like creatures are certainly the most interesting and visually impressive element of the story, they are greatly underutilised.

Another of the more excruciating elements of this film is the musical score. It's genuinely insufferable and sounds like something you would find on a daytime television soap opera, with the added inclusion of an overly accentuated 80's electronic synth-pop. This is just another example of this film trying too hard to appease a wide array of audiences, instead of just focusing on one particular group. The combination of multiple elements doesn't work unless it's carefully curated with purpose, something 'The Vineyard' is not.

The most disappointing thing about 'The Vineyard' is that there are some rather interesting ideas here. And whilst the overall execution is misguided, I strongly believe this is a concept I imagine would work very well in a modern-day remake in some form of adaptation. Unfortunately, overall, I just couldn't see past the poorly executed aesthetics and painfully acted cast.



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