In a week when I ventured out to see Annabelle, I didn’t think I could possibly put myself through another ‘horror’ movie. 9 out 10 horror movies I see are absolute drivel and I always get annoyed at myself for falling into the same trap of expectation and over excitement, only to find myself in a trap of total excrement.
That being said, the screener for ‘The Vault’ came across my desk this week. It stars James Franco who in my eyes can pretty much do no wrong on screen. Whether he’s hitting a blunt (This is the end) or sawing his arm off (127 Hours) I find him amazingly versatile and increasingly watchable. He is the leading name in a cast that had me scrambling for IMDB to see where everybody had appeared before, mostly I was unable to recognise any of their bodies of work but when you’re trying to immerse yourself in a horror that’s sometimes a great advantage.
It’s a story of 2 estranged sisters forced to work together to rob a bank to pay their brother’s medical expenses. They are working with a gang, each with their own reasons for needing to liberate the cold, hard cash from the bank’s vault. It’s fast paced from the beginning and its testament to the director that it doesn’t appear frantic and chaotic.
The team is lead (and I use the term loosely) by Leah Dillion (Francesca Eastwood – Heroes Reborn) and they have a plan to rob the bank quickly and without hurting anyone. It would go perfectly to plan but for the fact the banks primary vault is not very full. In fact there is just 70k in there, not enough for any of the crooks to split to meet their objectives. James Franco plays Ed Mass, the assistant manager who for fear of people being hurt or killed in the ruckus he volunteers the information to stave off the police force in the short term. He also makes the bandits aware of the second vault below the bank, completely off the grid and stuffed with 6 million dollars. An amount more than adequate to tempt the troublesome team to make their way down below to the jackpot.
It’s at this point things start to take a turn for the worse, and by worse I mean paranormal and eerie. Lights begin to flicker, cameras begin to distort and people begin to hear and see troubling things. You may want to turn the contrast up where possible at this point, as the film descends in to almost total darkness at points. One of the robber’s henchman has begun drilling the lock the antique vault and now the real horror can begin.
Up to now I would say the film is more of a thriller than a horror and even the presence of supernatural beings are not enough to make this a spook-fest going forward. The plot is engrossing and captivating, with each character given enough screen time and dialogue to establish themselves as worthwhile additions to the cast. The people that need to be seen and heard are there and there is no script wasted on unimportant bystanders. Often hostage films have completely needless filler scenes of the chatter from people whose only job is sit there and shut up.
Once people start to meet grisly almost saw-esque ends (not a spoiler, it’s a horror movie), the question becomes what is happening in the basement and could it possibly be worse that than what awaits them outside where the armed police are ready and waiting. The more the drama unfolds in the passages in and around the basement, the more the morbid and macabre history of the old bank begins to come to light.
Who or what is in the basement and the motivation of Ed sending them down there with the intention of their demise is in question. One thing is for sure, the Vault will have you locked in until its conclusion. The only question will be do the team have the necessary tools to not only break into the vault, but to break out as well and how many will get out alive?
I really enjoyed this film but as I’ve said, it’s more a thriller than a chiller. The occasional jumps scares aren’t enough to warrant the title in my humble opinion, but it’s an excellent twist on a hostage situation story and will have enough twists and turns to keep interested to the finale.
Spoiler (sort of)
Don’t read below if you are going to watch this film…Seriously, don’t.
There is a huge twist in this film but unfortunately I guessed it within 20 minutess and left myself (and wife) greatly disappointed. I’m unsure if it was too obvious or if I’m too suspicious after watching a particular series that is just about to start its third season this autumn.
There is also a completely needless scene at the end of the film that is almost counter-productive and once you’ve seen it, you’ll probably agree the film could have ended five minutes earlier and it would have been an extremely fitting finale to the tail.
Review by Michael Prime
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