Title: The Vault of Horror
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Writer: Milton Subotsky (series created by William Gaines and Al Feldstein)
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Starring: Daniel Massey, Terry-Thomas, Curd Jürgens, Michael Craig, and Tom Baker
Release Date: March 1973
As we head on closer to Halloween, we take a look at another EC Comics adaptation by Amicus Productions: The Vault of Horror. Which is basically Tales from the Crypt II, but with EC Comics’s series The Vault of Horror title attached to it.
For starters, this has some familiarities with Amicus Productions’s previous Tales from the Crypt, especially since it was done only a year after. And just like its predecessor, it proves that the seventies were by far the worst times aesthetically. Pea greens, sunflower yellows, and wood panelings puke all over the scenery. Plus, the film quality hasn’t aged that well (though shot decently). However, it’s very faithful to the EC Comics (or at least story wise).
But the similarities end there.
Whereas Tales from the Crypt was a pleasant surprise, The Vault of Horror is both predictable and bland.
Movie Rule #598: In a horror film, avoid tribal, indigenous, and mystical people at all cost.
For starters, the characters here are all pretty similar. Powerful men whose blood lust and obsessions become their pratfall. It’s not like Tales from the Crypt, where each character is unique and each one has their own tale to tell. Here, each story has sort of a similar formula to it. It’s a man of power, who has an obsession or desire, does whatever it takes to get it (usually killing someone), suddenly events turn against him, and he gets killed in an ironic manner at the end. The stories are….
“Midnight Mess”: Harold Rodgers (Daniel Massey) tracks down his sister, who’s living in an odd village. The residents stay indoors at night due to mysterious disappearances happening (avoid the night? Hmm…I wonder what it could be…).
“The Neat Job”: Arthur Critchit (Terry-Thomas), a perfectionist troubled with OCD, is frustrated with his new wife Eleanor (Glynis Johns) and her clumsiness and lack of organization. However, after pushing her to the brink of insanity, things start to get out of hand.
(Insert caption here)
“This Trick’ll Kill You”: Sebastian (Curd Jürgens) is a magician traveling to India, and knows all the tricks to his trade. When he sees an Indian rope trick that seems to be “real” magic, Sebastian will do whatever it takes to figure out the real illusion behind it.
“Bargain in Death”: Maitland (Michael Craig) concocts the perfect insurance scam with his friend Alex (Edward Judd). Maitland will fake his own death with medication, allowing him to be in a death-like state long enough to be buried. Alex will then collect the insurance money and dig his friend out of the grave. But things take a turn for the worst when Alex double crosses him and leaves him buried alive.
“Drawn and Quartered”: Moore (Tom Baker) is a talented artist who is temporarily living in Haiti. When given a mysterious voodoo enchantment that allows him to curse whatever he has painted, Moore decides a little payback to his critics is in order.
It pays to take notes during Kill Bill Vol. II.
It’s not that these are bad stories. They come from the source itself. It’s more that the stories aren’t executed well. As I said before, the characters aren’t that interesting. And while the actors aren’t bad, it’s not like the big list of the first one with everyone giving their 110%.
The violence is also awkward. Not because the blood looks fake (although it does), or the special effects. It’s because of the censorship. Which wouldn’t be bad, since countless of horror films before got creative around it. But a lot of times the more violent deaths get a weird freeze frame that hangs there awkwardly for a few seconds and then moves away. And not only is this mostly a goreless horror film, it’s also a tensionless one. Not once was I on the edge of the seat.
Attack of the killer prep.
Even the other aspects of the film didn’t hold up that well. The music (composed by Douglas Gamley) didn’t have any memorable hooks or subtleties associated with a good horror score. Rather, it was bombastic and evasive, lacking style, flair, and good taste with each scene. Now, I understand that Tales from the Crypt had a few corny scores, such as putting Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in the opening credit. But it had almost a fun corniness to it, like walking into an old haunted horror house. Whereas this one lacked the charm to it.
Ultimately though, is this a terrible comic book film? Not really. Yes it’s bad, but there was nothing god awful about it. But with that being said, there weren’t exactly any amazing aspects about it either. And without interesting characters, tension, or even plain old gore, it’s an older horror film without anything worth getting through the slow pace.