Euro-Horror Project: The Grapes of Death

(Jean Rollin, 1978) If horror movies are merely the kitschy manifestations of humanity’s greatest fears, then a tale about a toxic wine harvest might point to an anxiety particular to the French (other countries may grow wine, but no other has lashed its national identity to the stuff). Regarded by some as Jean Rollin’s best film, and generally considered a fine entry into the walking dead genre, The Grapes of Death plays off French oenophilia and the importance of the industry to a nation. When an experimental pesticide used on a grape harvest winds up poisoning the brains and bodies of all who imbibe this year’s vintage, zombie-like maniacs wander the countryside lusting for the blood of the living. Our unsuspecting heroine (Marie-Georges Pascal) hurtles straight into Romero country by train and must fend for herself in a region where pretty much everyone enjoys their vino (with grave consequences; alcoholics metaphorized into zombies?). The film has a distinctive look with its mossy, misty, stony countryscapes, and the acting is above average for both Rollin and Euro-horror.  The pace is rambling, like the ruins that dot many of the film’s exterior shots. Watch for French porn star Brigitte Lahaie and a surprisingly convincing severed head dummy (in a film with both very good and very weak make-up effects). Grapes is a nice eco-horror piece in the vein of Jorge Grau’s Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and others from the sixties and seventies.  –Ranylt Richildis

What’s the Euro-Horror Project?

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