A horror film centred around wine! Well count us in for a bit of a scare and a bottle or two of cheeky red then. It’s increasingly de rigueur for anyone a bit famous especially in the music world to make a bit of income by branching out and getting their own branded brew (it’s either that or perfume) so there is no shortage of need for more of the grape to be grown. That is where we come to here as after a rather nasty and horrific car crash we move forward a year and the very full bodied Eveleigh Maddox (Isla Fisher) finds herself reinventing her life with hubby David (Anson Mount) in California and buying a vineyard to do just that. Things are not going to go too well if all the premonitions are to be believed. First at a party with the local movers and shakers of the industry we are informed that crops have failed in the past here and it is very difficult to get the necessary crop grown successfully. Naturally it was time to rub hands together in glee expecting a Wicker Man scenario and sacrifices to ensure the crop doesn’t fail but that’s just one of many possible set-ups to side-line the viewer.
Isla Fisher naturally steals the show as a soon to be mum and the acting from the former Home And Away star has certainly come on in leaps and bounds since watching that guilty pleasure. If anything it makes Mount’s performance a little on the wooden side as he is more of a passive witness to all the strange things going on. As soon as she moves in Eveleigh starts having the Visions of the title and pretty damn scary they are too. Fright flick fans thinking of J-Horror tropes probably won’t be too surprised about this having seen similar results after horrible accidents and we are kept pumped up by sinister hooded figures, moving furniture and mannequins, exploding bottles of wine and smashed windows. Her doctor played by Big Bang Theory actor Jim Parsons is concerned as is best friend Eileen, Desperate Housewives Eva Longoria, as Eveleigh’s descent into paranoia and madness gets ever more desperate.
The film hints much and alludes to many different aspects of the horror genre leaving you questioning throughout. Witchcraft, haunted house, poltergeist activity are all very much in the frame. At one point you could be wondering if we are heading down the road to a scenario such as that of Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby or even Soavi’s The Sect and the next something along the lines of Rob Zombie’s Lords Of Salem. All the time the scares pile up enhanced by an incredibly jarring loud shock syndrome courtesy of Anton Sanko’ score. Being heavily pregnant Eveleigh can’t exactly knock back the wine or blame it for what is going on although the Doc is keen to keep her medicated in other ways. Turning sleuth she gradually uncovers what is going on and many will not see what is coming as Visions skilfully keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout its fast paced 80 minute running time.
Greutert direct a couple of the latter Saw entries and obviously has learned a thing or two about mounting tension and keeping up the mystery, which he does very well here. The casting is interesting too as Visions features a few very well-known people stepping outside their normal roles. You can’t help thinking that Parsons is as methodical and reasoned in his thinking as he is in his day job which is something he really brings to the fore in his part here as a doctor; logical and scientific every step of the way. Tightly wrapping the narrative together Visions is an effective shocker for the Insidious generation. Seasoned horror fans will take a lot of references along the way (including a certain film that even a mention of would be a major spoiler) but for me this just added to the enjoyment. In a day and age that seems obsessed with simply remaking everything or turning successful films into home viewing series it’s great to see something that does have a spark of originality about it. The setting certainly worked very well (I can only really think of James Hong’s The Vineyard and Jean Rollin’s The Grapes Of Death being comparable in that respect). All in all well worth hosting a cheese and wine party for when Visions is released on DVD and digital HD on June 20th