THE GRAPES OF DEATH (1978)
aka Les raisins de la mort, Pesticide
Article 4881 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Jean Rollin
Featuring Marie-Georges Pascal, Felix Marten, Serge Marquand
What it is: What happens when you drink the wine
A woman on vacation finds herself stranded in a village where the inhabitants are mutated and murderous, the result of poisoning due to the insecticide used in a recent crop of grapes.
It’s been a long time since I last encountered Jean Rollin in my cinematic journeys, but here he is again, and not for the last time. Most of his movies up to this point have confusing and surreal arty-erotic-gory experiments, usually with vampires. This is the closest I’ve seen him come to an ordinary movie. It is pretty gory, but he mostly keeps his artiness in check, and its ventures into eroticism are gratuitous but fleeting. It’s basically his take on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, though the murderous killers aren’t zombies but victims of poisoning; in this way, it’s similar to THE CRAZIES. Granted, since it’s a Jean Rollin movie, the feel is distinctly different. Instead of tightening the screws to a fever pitch, the movie actually becomes more distant and detached as the action progresses, and I suspect this is due to the changes undergone by the heroine of the movie, and if you’ve been paying attention to her actions throughout the movie, you’ll see what’s happening before it actually does. The musical score is eccentric and used very sparsely, and this adds to the movie’s odd flavor. Yes, there’s some surreal and flamboyant grotesquerie (especially in the middle of the movie), but it wouldn’t be a Jean Rollin movie without it. This one is actually pretty decent; it’s certainly the most approachable film of his that I’ve seen to date.