Vinegar Syndrome’s ‘The Vineyard’ (1989) 4K Restoration Blu-ray Review

Who’s ready for another Vinegar Syndrome release? I know I am! We were blessed by the Vinegar Syndrome Fairy this September, and she sent us two separate Blu-rays… We’ve already reviewed Pledge Night (1990 – read our review here), and now we’re ready for The Vineyard (1989). Who wants wine?

The Vineyard comes to us from The Vineyard Productions and NorthStar Entertainment. Big Trouble In Little China’s James Hong acted as screenwriter, director and lead actor with help from Co-Writer/Co-Director William Rice (Gollum’s American Cousin 2015). Along with Hong, the other cast members include Karen Lorre (Popcorn 1991 – read our retro review here), Michael Wong (Transformers: Age of Extinction 2014), Lars Wanberg (Midnight Caller TV series), Michael Madsen’s younger sister, Cheryl, Stuntman Sean P. Donahue (Ground Rules 1997), Cheryl Lawson (Enemy of the State 1998), Karl-Heinz Teuber (Amadeus 1984), newcomer Rue Douglas and heterochromatic GSKA Black Belt Hall of Famer Henry Mok.

The score for The Vineyard was composed by A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Paul Francis Witt while Garrick Huey (Karate Cop 1991) edited. Jurassic Park’s Peter Konig and his team took care of the monsterish special FX makeup and prosthetics. The film was shot by DoP John Dirlam (Gone in 60 Seconds 2000).

Synopsis:

Dr. Elson Po is one of the world’s most famous wine growers. He has a magic potion which has kept him handsome and alive during the centuries. However, lately the magic which rejuvenates him seem to be less and less effective. As a side project he make movies and invites a group of young, aspiring actors to his private island for a party, believing that the young, handsome actress Jezebel can be his new source of life.

This one is a 4K restoration Blu-ray and DVD release from Vin Syn from its original 35mm camera negative.

*Special Features*

• Region Free Blu-ray/DVD combo
• Newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm original camera negative
Welcome to the Vineyard – a brand new interview with director/actor James Hong and producer/actor Harry Mok
Zombies From San Jose – a brand new interview with co-director William Rice
Sacred Earth and Restless Souls – a brand new interview with cinematographer John Dirlam
• Original theatrical trailer
• Reversible cover artwork
• English SDH subtitles

The Vineyard, Karen Lorre
A pretty girl on an altar being attacked by a zombie… this could be almost any 80s horror movie

What Works

Yes, The Vineyard is cheesy. Every horror movie trope imaginable is used at least once. The film has the most cringeworthy acting and awkward, stilted dialogue I’ve seen this side of The Room (2003). But that’s what I love about it. It’s so over the top and ridiculous. Dr. Po (Hong) is a nasty villain, and at first, everything comes up roses for him… or, should I say, comes up zombies? Because, yes, there are zombies in The Vineyard. There’s also Chinese voodoo, elder abuse, hypnosis, plenty of T&A, vampirism, sacrifices, patricide, slasher tropes and even some Kung Fu. What else could we expect from the director of Big Trouble In Little China?

The Vineyard
T&A abound!

Dr. Po immobilizes his victims using voodoo dolls in the most interesting ways. He feeds Claudia (Lawson) dried up spiders and then brings them back to life inside her stomach. They want to come out, of course. He takes Brad (Douglas) out with tiny acupuncture needles. His cheating wife (Lissa Zappardino) is brought down by a rapey snake. He even lights poor Jeremy (Wong) on fire… all without having to leave his dank, dark dungeon of wine-making and eternal life potion creating.

The FX makeup by Peter Konig in The Vineyard is fantastic, especially Dr. Po’s old man face and Brad’s bloated neck. The zombies were mostly kept hidden, and I can see why, but they were still a force to be reckoned with. I was impressed with the addition of a gay character (Teuber) and one dressed in drag (Donahue). This was still a big deal back in 1989 when The Vineyard was released. I also have to mention Lars Wanberg as Lucas Carroll. Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride had just come out in theaters two years previous, and the reaction of women to the beautiful Cary Elwes as Wesley must have really rubbed off on Hong, because he scoured the globe to find an actor that looked just like him. He even gave the guy Wesley’s Dread Pirate Robert’s pencil thin mustache. Eye candy for the boys and the girls!

The Vineyward, Lars Wanberg
If only he was sword fighting and saying, “As you wish…”

As for the transfer, it’s good. Maybe not the best 4k restoration from Vinegar Syndrome, but still good. Like I’ve mentioned before, I have no idea what the original film quality was that they had to work with, so I’m sure that was a factor. The sound and dialogue line up nicely with the film, which is always a plus. Oh, and don’t forget all of the awesome extras you get with this release! I definitely suggest grabbing this copy of The Vineyard, especially if you like a bit of cheese with your wine.

One of the random times when Dr. Po goes completely insane

What Doesn’t Work

The Vineyard is a lot of fun for the right kind of movie watcher. People looking for a serious film or one that makes sense, keep searching. The acting could get almost too awkward at points, and I wasn’t very impressed with the score, which was surprisingly composed by Nightmare on Elm Street’s Paul Francis Witt. For complaints, however, this really isn’t too bad.

The Vineyard, James Hong
How old can an old man get? Very old.

Final Thoughts

Although the transfer is not of the quality of other Vinegar Syndrome releases, I really enjoyed The Vineyard and I hope it gets some love from other genre fans out there. The old man FX are fantastic, and the cheesiness just runs the show. Be sure to pick this one up!

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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