31 March 2006 | The_Void
Surprisingly good French zombie flick!
French director Jean Rollin is best known for his messy erotic vampire films, but Zombie Lake aside; he's actually a lot better at zombie films. Along with The Living Dead Girl, The Grapes of Death represents one of the few successes for the cult director. This zombie film stands out for its morbid and surreal atmosphere, and for the fact that, as zombie films go, this one is quite original. The title doesn't suggest a good film, but it refers to the movie's main plot point; namely, the fact that it's the French tradition of distilling wine that is to blame for the zombie outbreak. It's points like this that make the film profoundly French and despite the fact that France doesn't seem like the ideal country for a zombie outbreak; the plot and location blend together rather nicely. Naturally, the main character is female; and we follow her as she makes her way to her home town of Roubles; a wine producing estate. The journey turns awry when a man infected with the zombie virus boards the train, and our heroine finds her travel companion dead...and that's just the start of it!
The plot takes the familiar Night of the Living Dead style idea of the living trying to stay clear of the dead, but Rollin makes the film his own with a fine variety of weird and wonderful characters, and it usually turns out that these are more dangerous than the zombie hoards. The rural setting provides a nice base for a zombie movie, as it's quite different from the usual urban setting, and this also blends well with Rollin's morbid atmosphere. The film is also very surreal, and the director continually gives the viewer the impression that there's something nasty lurking just around the corner. Many of Rollin's films feel cheap and nasty, but this one doesn't; the cinematography is beautiful, and the acting isn't too bad either; both of which give the film a higher quality feel than the plot, by rights, should have. The only time there's a lapse in quality is the awful commentary on French politics towards the end
but it's not enough to spoil it entirely. The film is quite erotic, and even though it's quite different to his usual stuff; you can still tell that it's Rollin in the director's chair. The ending is really good, and comes as quite a surprise; and I've got to say that I loved the final message; I agree, beer is superior to wine. Recommended!