Lo Pan himself, James Hong, wrote (alongside Douglas Kondo) and directed this midnight movie about an archipelago in which the formula for eternal youth has been perfected and extracted from young, concupiscent subjects. For all intensive purposes, The Vineyard is a frustratingly cornucopian, albeit giddy excuse for Hong to fondle his lingerie-bound co-stars. But, as vanity projects go, the film can never be accused of boringly lurid.
Hong is no stranger to decrepit age make-up because of Big Trouble in Little China and throughout the film, his appetite for “longevity” is usually ephemeral before the creases and wrinkle spring up. The main thrust of the plotline is that winemaker Dr. Elson Po (Hong) must fossick a more sustainable, replenishable source for his immortality outside of human sacrifices. What exactly is Francis Ford Coppola up to in Napa Valley?
Hong must be a connoisseur of soft-core erotica since the first fifteen minutes are chock-full of Zalman King sex scenes. Suddenly, the genre-bending movie vacillates into a kung-fu fight which concludes with a eunuch decimation. Hong might be a tad impetuous with the audience’s attention spans but he certifies that no scene will elapse sans anything zany or lopsided.
An acupuncture scene emanates a grand reverence for Hong’s culture. The requisitioned actors are all dullards and the choreography in several of the action scenes result in overtly pulled punches. The main issues are the amateurish acting and the rules behind the omnipotence of Po and his wine are threadbare (ex. He can conjure a bushel of spiders inside someone’s throat via voodoo?).
Having said that, the film is very much a patchwork. Zombies roam the island in plain sight and their open-grave appearances aren’t elucidated. The pre-production party before the oenophile motion picture is pointless and rather daft in terms of Hong prancing around in a variety of kabuki Halloween masks. Even with a relatively short 93-minute runtime, the film tends to meander between female-prisoner set pieces.