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The Grapes Of Death (1978)

The Grapes Of Death (1978)

Writers: Jean Rollin, Christian Meunier
Director: Jean Rollin

Full Review

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The Grapes of Death (aka Les Raisins de la Mort) is a 1979s French arthouse zombie(ish) movie. That might sound like a strange combination were the film not from Jean Rollin

The story follows Elisabeth (Marie-Georges Pascal) who is visiting her boyfriend at the vineyard in a rural French village called Roubles. However the train journey is interrupted by the arrival of a local man who is clearly unwell... and violent. Elisabeth escapes from the train and flees, seeking help.

It turns out that grapes from the vineyard are infected and have been caused the local population into semi-mindless killers with rotting flesh - sort of zombies. The story revolves around Elisabeth's attempts to stay alive, reach her boyfriend and escape.

So far so standard. But the way the film is done is like nothing from Hollywood! The whole thing has a surreal, nightmarish feeling which is accentuated by the landscapes and cinematography. This being a French film there are lots of long, slow, silent shots. In fact the sound is one of its distinctive features of the movie; most of the time there is not background, then suddenly we get some excellent but totally inappropriate music from Philippe Sissman that adds to the bizarre quality of the whole thing.

Is there an apocryphal subtext here? It's tempting to analyse the story as a warning about the dangers of alcohol. However I don't think that's right - beer and champagne are shown to be harmless. If there is a a subtext it's more likely to be about (then) modern French society as discussed in an otherwise irrelevant conversation between two men.

The Grapes of Death won't be to everyone's taste. The storytelling is slow and has various plot holes and inconsistencies. Although there's plenty of violence, there's little here for gore hounds.

If you're looking for an exciting zombie adventure then this film won't be for you. But if you're interested in something hypnotically stylish and don't mind a slow, meandering story then give The Grapes Of Death a try.

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