JEAN ROLLIN-UARY: The Grapes of Death (1978)

The difference between a Jean Rollin zombie adjacent movie and one made by any other director should be obvious: this is going to be a descent into madness and an exploration of how the end will come not because of the supernatural or a virus, but because humankind is, well, humankind.

All Élizabeth (Marie-Georges Pascal, incredible and sadly lost way too soon and way too senselessly) wants to do is get the vineyard her fiancee Michel (Michel Herval) owns, but the train to get there soon turns into insanity thanks to a man with a boil on his neck, which near instantly destroys a woman she’s just become friends with named Brigitte (Evelyne Thomas). From there on, nearly everyone she comes upon is either covered with horrific boils, has gone insane or has already been killed.

One of those people is Brigitte Lahaie, who shows up long enough to make us think she’s going to help our heroine only leaving her to die. She then dramatically disrobes to show others that she isn’t one of the insane group of people killing everyone, only to do exactly that.

Lahaie had worked with Rollin in his adult films before making horror with him. He felt that she had a “strange presence” which turned into a sort of fascination for him. He described her as “the perfect example of womanhood” and the way he captures her in this warms my heart like when Franco would worship his Lina with his lens too. Why else would he capture her in the same way Bava did Barbara Steele when he showed her off in Black Sunday?

She was also so cold in that scene where she disrobes that she couldn’t get her lines out.

When Élizabeth finally gets to her man, she discovers that this was all his fault. He invented the pesticide and worse, he employed illegal workers so he never told the police what was happening. Now, it’s too late, much too late, with the movie ending with our heroine going mad, killing everyone around her and allowing her lover’s blood to pour all over her face.

I guess this is as much a zombie movie as The Crazies is. That’s a compliment.

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