THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 27 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

VaultHorror poster

Directed by: Roy Ward Baker

Written by: Milton Subotsky

Starring: Daniel Massey, Terry Thomas, Curd Jurgens, Michael Craig, Tom Baker, Anna Massey & Glynis Johns

Amicus’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT anthology was so successful that the very next year we received THE VAULT OF HORROR. This is another horror anthology that combines various scary stories from E.C. Comics. However, the stories this time around are a tad more formulaic and the overall quality of the film is a definite downgrade from its predecessor. There are still a couple of quality tales to be found in this mixed bag of a film. The wraparound story concerns five men boarding an elevator and finding themselves trapped in the vault-like basement with no way out. In order to entertain themselves, they all relate recurring nightmares they’ve been experiencing and you can see where this is going…

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MIDNIGHT MESS: The first tale is fairly standard, but entertainingly campy, stuff. A man tracks down his sister with the intent of murdering her in order to claim her inheritance. However, there’s something eerie about the small town she lives in. Everybody is afraid to go out after dark and the streets are all deserted except for a mysterious restaurant. This segment is simple and to-the-point. However, the twist at the end is predictable and certain cheap special effects haven’t aged well in the slightest. There’s a cheesy charm to it, but it’s something that you’ve likely seen before and done better. B-

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THE NEAT JOB: An obsessive neat-freak marries a younger trophy wife and finds that she’s a bit messier than he expected. After he viciously hounds her about keeping the house tidy, she causes a clumsy accident and scrambles to clean it up before he arrives home. This all leads to a fairly predictable and downright silly outcome. There isn’t much to say about this story because it’s simply okay at best. There’s a cool little visual near the end, but this one feels like a one-note joke that’s drug on far past it’s prime. C

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THIS TRICK’LL KILL YOU: Much like the previous story, this is a fairly typical horror tale that you can easily predict from the onset. A couple of magicians are visiting India in hopes of finding a new trick for their act. After days of searching a potential trick arrives in form of a magic rope, but the owner won’t part with it…leading to drastic measures and dire consequences. While the ending has one solid visual, this whole story is bland and forgettable. It’s easily the worst segment of the whole film. C-

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BARGAIN IN DEATH: A man hatches an insurance scam that involves burying himself alive. However, the friend who’s supposed to dig him up is less-than-trustworthy and time (as well as the air inside the coffin) is running out. This segment has a couple of cool twists and a dark sense of humor, but much like the rest of the stories in this film, it’s overlong and fairly predictable. The ending of the story is obviously foreshadowed from a mile away. C+

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DRAWN AND QUARTERED: Even if the rest of this anthology film isn’t quite up to par with what you might hope for, this final story is by far the best of the bunch. A painter decides to get revenge on three men who screwed him out of a lot of money. His complicated plan for payback involves some voodoo magic and his paintings. Whatever he paints becomes a sort of voodoo doll. So if something happens to a painting, it also occurs to the real-life counterpart from the painting. You can see where this one’s going. This segment isn’t perfect but does have many suspenseful sequences and a particularly awesome ending. It’s the only story that lives up to the quality of the first film. B+

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VAULT OF HORROR is much more of a mixed bag than 1972’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT. I hate to keep comparing the two films, but this was a direct sequel to that impressive horror anthology. Out of the five stories here, only one stands out as a highlight and it arrives at the end of the film. The rest range from disappointing to decent, but that’s about it. I feel that the main problem in this anthology sequel stems from the actual tales adapted for the screen, especially when you see how many other great stories they had to choose from. VAULT OF HORROR stands as an okay (at best) horror anthology, but pales as a follow-up to TALES FROM THE CRYPT. Honestly, I recommend only watching the first and last segments of this film and skipping everything in-between.

Grade: C+

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