This contains minor SPOILERS, so don't read it if you plan to see this.
I read an article in the TV Guide a few years ago where the magazine had talked to actor James Hong. In the tiny article (it filled about an 8th of the page), Hong mentioned that he didn't feel Hollywood offered him very good roles, but instead he typically got similar, stereotypical Japanese roles. When I read it, I nodded my head and said, `Yeah, he's right.' Now I really like James Hong, and I wish his career the best of luck, but if Hollywood stereotypes will keep movies like `The Vineyard' from being made, then I hope Hong is typecast forever. In 1989, Hong made this weird horror movie. Hong came up with the story himself, was a screenplay writer, and donned the director's hat! And what do you get in the first scene?---Hong having a sex scene! Maybe Hong just felt that Hollywood typecasts for old Japanese men don't include naked women, and he wanted to make a statement about that?
Hong is a wine maker that lives on an island with his henchmen. Hong is centuries-old, using an amulet to stay young and needing the blood of young women every once in awhile. So he lures people to his island and kills them. This time, he gets a whole group of youngsters at his home for a really lame party. He uses magic to either kill or capture them, and decides he wants to marry one of the women. It's up to bookworm Jeremy to save the day. But he sure doesn't save the film.
But wait! That isn't much of a horror movie! Well, that's because I haven't yet mentioned all the stuff in it that made absolutely no sense. Where to start, where to start? We can break out in song along the way
1. My Lucky Star: Let's see
we've got pink hearts, orange stars, yellow moons, green clovers, blue diamonds, purple horseshoes
what are we missing in 'me Lucky Charms? Of course! Brown amulets! Hong has an interesting flashback about when he was a child. We learn that he killed his father to save his mother, but refuses to give her the magic amulet. Then we find out that his mother is a GODDESS! You heard me right. I guess that is trying to explain the origins of the amulet, but it only rouses up more questions that are never answered. It would have been better if the amulet had no origin. But hold on, that would ruin #2
2. Witchy Woman: See, Hong's goddess mother is still alive and kicking. The amulet made her young (much younger than it makes Hong) and without it she turned into a withered old woman. Hong keeps her locked up in a room in his mansion. It is not clear why he does that, since the two never have a scene together. But come on! Are we really to believe Hong keeps his mother with him as he moves from identity to identity each century? He hasn't been suckling for all these years, has he?
3. It's Raining Men: Who are all these bodyguards protecting the estate? They must be working for money, but would any price be high enough to live on the desolate island where you were expected to kill people?
4. Let's Dance: Next we turn to our saplings. Not trees, but the saps that come to the island. They are brought by some old guy with a bad accent who is quickly disposed of by the guards. Why did they come? Some of them are wannabe actors and actresses that have some kind of audition. None of them are very interesting. Still, the scene where they are introduced is sort of funny (one of the would-be actors only has a high school diploma to brag about), and I thought Hong's direction would be good. I would soon be let down. They have a party that night, and it is a really sour one with bad direction. Then there is Jeremy. He wrote a magazine article on Hong. Jeremy figures out what is going on quickly, based on some shoddy evidence he finds in books Hong has lying around. When Jeremy starts babbling about this, you would think Hong would kill him, but he constantly stops himself.
5. That Old Magic Feeling: To kill or detain the victims, Hong sends his guards, uses magic, or both. What he does strongly resembles voodoo. Where did he learn this? How does it work? Why does he use it on some people and not others? Why doesn't he use it in the end to snub the remaining people that are causing trouble?
6. Now I'm Feeling Zombified: Now the real bad stuff. The women are taken to the dungeon to have blood extracted so Hong can stay young. He uses up so many people a day that you wonder how he can stay in one place for more than a week before people get suspicious. But why women's blood? The men are all killed and buried in the vineyard. The movie box says they fertilize the vineyard! They way they are buried made me think it would be like `Motel Hell.' But no, these bodies constantly rise from their graves, and the only way they can be stopped is if the guards douse them with `holy dirt.' I thought `Holy...' when I saw this part, but the word `dirt' did not follow it. The zombie make up isn't bad, but the whole thing made me fear I had accidentally rented `The Video Dead Part 2.'
7. They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-ha!: When the last two bafflingly bad scenes were over, that is the line I was saying to myself repeatedly, because no one sane could possibly sit through the entire movie. I did, so expect my next review to come from the local asylum. Zantara's score: 2 out of 10.