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John’s Horror Corner: The Vineyard (1989), bringing Big Trouble in Little China and zombies to wine country.

September 7, 2018

MY CALL: Basically, Big Trouble in Little China part 2: Lo Pan does Napa Valley (and zombies), this film is B-movie GOLD. It’s hardly horror and can’t decide if it favors mysticism over fist fights. It’s exactly the kind of bad that will leave you smiling.  MOVIES LIKE The Vineyard: Hmmm… I really have no idea. So, suggestions would be most welcome in the comments section below.

Doctor Elson Po (James Hong) is among the most famous winemakers… and he has a secret! Using magic potions and rituals, he has lived for centuries. However, like any drug (of sorts), its effects have waned over time, making him fearful for his unnatural longevity. As a means to gather key “ingredients” for his wine, Po invites a group of actors (incl. Karen Lorre/Witter; Popcorn) to his home for a private casting party. At this point you may be questioning the shakiness of the plot… and you’d be right. This is as hokey as it gets! LOL

Co-directed by James Hong (Blade Runner, The Golden Child, Big Trouble in Little China), this film launches its lunacy without a moment to spare. Within the first few minutes we encounter garden-planted zombies, gratuitous nudity, James Hong transforming into something whenever he needs a youth juice fix, and an overly elaborate science set complete with beakers and long twirling titration tubing so we can visibly track blood from its scantily-clad victims straight to the wine glass.

There are some stupid gags (e.g., a woman wakes up in bed with a harmless snake, another basically dies from spiders crawling all over her), some cheap tropes (e.g., needless sex scenes and extra-dumb victims), some totally out-of-place scenes (e.g., a martial arts brawl), and needlessly long party scenes that get a bit awkward. But what moves this movie along are its poorly handled growling vineyard zombies, a surprising amount of fight scenes (between regular people, not zombies), and Hong’s zestful mania. Other random scenes include the acupuncture voodoo doll death, some decapitation, old Chinese lady zombie assault, and the wedding-like “Lo Pan” ritual.

This movie features James Hong as an undying lord who uses magic and kidnapped young women to facilitate his immortality, mystical potions and dungeon lairs, and martial arts-fighting henchman. Moreover, this movie contains notably more action-based violence than horror and crescendos to a wedding scene reminiscent of Lo Pan and Kim Cattrall. This is essentially Big Trouble in Little China part 2: Lo Pan does Napa Valley.

This film is pure nonsense. It’s hardly horror, and can’t decide if it favors mysticism over fist fights. The only thing I can say confidently is that this is B-movie GOLD! It’s exactly the kind of bad that will leave you smiling.

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