The Grapes of Death Pesticide The Raisins of Death
The last film I saw by Jean Rollin was the ridiculous Zombie Lake, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie. It was supposed to be good, and you have to love the title, so fellow movie critic Goatdog and I sat down to watch. I'm happy to say that The Grapes of Death is much better than Zombie Lake. It's interesting that Zombie Lake was made later in his career, but apparently careers are not necessarily like wine, improving with age.
The movie opens with a brief scene of workers in a vineyard, spraying pesticide. One of the workers is feeling quite ill, but his boss tells him to suck it up and get back to work. Then we switch to the main character, Élisabeth (Marie-Georges Pascal), and her friend (Evelyne Thomas), taking a cross-country train trip. Élisabeth is going to visit her fiancee, owner of a vineyard. Élisabeth is alone in her car when a strange man comes in and sits down across from her. He has oozing sores on his faces, growing larger by the minute, and he gives off a dangerous air. Élisabeth pulls the emergency brake and runs from the train.
As she flees across the countryside, she finds that the residents have all started developing these sores, and they seem to be losing their minds to homicidal impulses. She continues to attempt to make it to her fiancee's vineyard, which also seems to be bringing her deeper into the heart of the problem.
This is one of those films where the term "zombie" can be loosely used, but the horrors onscreen are really the director's own creation. The afflicted people don't change all at once, but slowly lose control of themselves as the sores on their bodies get worse, so that Élisabeth's plight gets more and more desperate as the movie goes on. Tension generally builds throughout the movie, but there are also points where the movie drags, making it somewhat uneven. Rollin generally tells a good story, though, and he has some great, creepy imagery.