A woman is attacked by a mutated man on a train, and manages to escape. When she reaches a house, she quickly notices that something is messing up the villagers. Wine turns people to zombies after the grapes were sprayed with a certain pesticide.
Jean Rollin did a few things in "The Grapes of Death" that I haven't seen him do in any other film to date. He gave it a story, without getting too poetic about it. There's only a few nude scenes. The fact that it moves along at all. And of course, much more gore. Between all the films I have seen by him, he usually lacks of everything but potential. He has a good eye, he gets some beautiful shots in every movie, the girls are hot, the scenery is fantastic. But he usually doesn't work out a good story (this one is at least interesting enough to follow. Maybe because it's simple) and he tries to make everything too poetic. He throws in vampires or things resembling vampires for reasons that seem to be this; female vampires are a safe way to get nudity in the film without people questioning the logic of the scenes. I have reviewed a bunch of his films, so I know I am getting into this way too often. But I just wanted to make sure you understand how different "The Grapes of Death" is in that sense, since even though it looks and feels like a Jean Rollin film, it's still a zombie film much like the ones we love.
Need I say more than what I wrote up there? It's literally just wine that infects people, and then we have the bunch of survivors we follow or meet on the way. The zombies are pretty smart, but there's no mistaking that they are meant to be zombies. What I dug the most about them was the disgusting wounds. They looked like pus-filled boils that grew on them. It's not an exciting film, it still gets fairly slow at times, but it's one of the better films I've seen from him. We are more than happy to just see them facing zombies here and there.
The effects aren't superb, but I must say I was impressed. The decapitation scene was cool and graphic, and the wounds often looked disgusting. The biggest issue here is the lack of difference between the wounds, they could've messed around a lot more with that. But there's no time for nitpicking a movie like this one.
You should definitely watch "The Grapes of Death" if you are interested in the works of Jean Rollin. If you are just starting, I would go with "Fascination" and "The Living Dead Girl" first, because they give more of an accurate picture of what Jean Rollin was all about, while still being some of his best work. "The Grapes of Death" is that little black sheep in his filmography that is simply good because it's less poetic and have gore. Starting with this one might make you believe this is how he usually works. But if you already like a few of his films (or only have seen some) then go right ahead with this one, it's worth checking out for sure. And to those that don't care at all about Rollin and only wanna watch a decent zombie movie - check it out. It could've done more with what it had, but I don't care. I like it and that's all that matters.