A film critic’s job is akin to that of a sounding-board. Sometimes it’s a sheer delight to sit through a film and then have the satisfaction of sharing that joy with your readers. Other times it’s like penance, sticking out a movie if only to warn others not to. Unfortunately for me (though perhaps luckier for you) The Vineyard falls into the second category. Starring, written and directed by the prolific Asian-American character actor James Hong (who has reputedly acted in some 380 productions) this film dredges the bottom of the wine barrel with little or no redeeming features whatsoever. In fact the only good thing about having watched it, is that I can now save you from wasting your time doing likewise.
Dr. Po (Hong) has built a reputation with his vintage wine, which is highly sought after amongst connoisseurs around the world. However the real magic ingredient of his beautiful wine lies buried deep beneath the ground of his island vineyard. An island which also hides a gruesome secret that Dr. Po would rather keep hidden, but which an unfortunate group of young people, lured to the island under the premise of making a film for Dr. Po, are about to discover to their cost.
A professional critic should be able to watch a film with a degree of separation, if only so they can offer a proper, measured and analytical appraisal. With this in mind I would genuinely like to find something positive to say about this film, which has been lauded by some as a ‘vintage, cult masterpiece’. However this would, I feel, be misleading, as this disaster has nothing in its favour and is as arid as the island on which it’s set. Here Dr. Po’s supposed mansion is more reminiscent of a poor-man’s Falcon Crest (the cheesy 1980’s soap opera set in a Californian winery which made the acting in Dynasty look Oscar worthy – both of which TV shows Hong also starred in). As for the cast? They mainly consists of twenty-something kids who act like they’re taking part in an end-of-term, high-school drama production. These various lacklustre elements combine to make a film as dry and dull to the palette as the sediment lying at the bottom of one of Dr. Po’s bottles of wine.
Apart from a wince-inducing incident with a DIY acupuncture kit, and a few resurrected zombies in the vineyard which wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in Michael Jackson: Thriller (1983), this production has all the fizz of a bottle of cheap plonk. As such it should be relegated to the cellar and allowed to gather dust without any further disturbance.