Review: The Vault of Horror (1973)

The Vault of Horror (1973)

Directed by: Roy Ward Baker | 83 minutes | horror, fantasy | Actors: Daniel Massey, Anna Massey, Mike Pratt, Erik Chitty, Jerold Wells, Terry-Thomas, Glynis Johns, Marianne Stone, John Forbes-Robertson, Curd Jürgens, Dawn Addams, Jasmina Hilton, Ishaq Bux, Michael Craig, Edward Judd, Robin Nedwell, Geoffrey Davies, Arthur Mullard, Tom Baker, Denholm Elliott, Terence Alexander, John Witty

In this ‘Vault of Horror’, as in several films released by Amicus, different stories are told as part of an encompassing story. The overarching story involves five men who find themselves locked in a basement and tell each other their nightmares.

1. Midnight

Mess Rogers is looking for his sister Donna. In the village where she is staying, he is warned by several villagers not to be outside after dark. Donna tells him that 17 dead bodies with no blood in their veins have been found in the area. Rogers tells Donna that their late father left her his property. However, he is determined to get his hands on the inheritance as soon as possible. A story with nice moments. Especially in the moments when Rogers starts killing, the moments when he starts to feel more and more uncomfortable in the atmospheric dark village, and the scene in the restaurant where he learns the true nature of the villagers. Who in their true form, however, look a bit too fake and behave a bit too comical during their meal.

2. The Neat Job

The overly tidy Critchit drives his wife Eleanor insane with his mania to keep his house tidy and everything in its place. One day, when Eleanor makes a mess and tries to clean it up, things go from bad to worse and Critchit’s living room and work room turn into chaos. After returning home, Critchit races against Eleanor until her overwrought nerves can take it no longer. A story in which it is mainly about the humor, because of the annoyances that are evoked in Critchit when his wife has put things in a different place and the verbal confrontations that result. However, it does not always come out well and a disadvantage is that tension or a dark atmosphere are not or hardly present. Critchit continues to whine about order and neatness for too long without the story going in a clear direction. A nice ending, befitting of Critchit’s neat and tidy mind, but one that is too small a part of the story to consider it too memorable.

3. This Trick’ll Kill You

The magician Sebastian is on holiday in India with his wife Inez. There he sees an Indian girl performing a trick with an enchanted rope. He wants to add her trick to his own show and tries to buy it from her. After her refusal, Sebastian and Inez kill her. However, the rope has quite a bit of trouble conforming to the wishes of its new owner. Interesting starting points in this story, and also a dark undertone is more or less present due to Sebastian’s ruthlessness and the occult events that occur with the rope. Unfortunately, this gets taken a bit too far when too much inexplicable happens. Something that also applies to the ending that doesn’t appeal too much to the imagination.

4. Bargain in Death

The destitute Maitland decides to fake his own death to collect the insurance money. He takes a drink that causes paralysis and agrees with his friend Alex that he will dig him up after his funeral. However, Alex has his own plans with the insurance money. Also living in the room next to Michael are two medical students who can put Maitland’s seemingly lifeless body to good use for their medical experiments. A story that is nicely designed on several points, especially the moments when Maitland is buried alive and the moments where the two students are after Maitland’s body, but otherwise not too exciting. Also the necessary humorous moments, although not always effective and a rather meaningless ending.

5. Drawn and Quartered

The painter Moore has taken resentment against various critics who have judged his work negatively but who have made a lot of money from it. In Haiti, he visits a voodoo priest who teaches him how to make portraits of his tormentors and thereby destroy them. In his enthusiasm, however, he forgets that he has also made a self-portrait. The best story in this movie, the darkest too. This is because of the voodoo, the doggedness with which Moore plans his plans and the delight in taking revenge on his tormentors in the most gruesome ways. Furthermore, some nice special effects, a fitting ironic ending, and a successful dose of black humor. However, it is also a story that makes you regret that there aren’t more stories in this production of this caliber.

The encompassing story, that of the five imprisoned men who share their strange and fearful dreams with each other, is rather simple and not too original. In the end, it will look all too familiar to connoisseurs of this type of Amicus films and all in all, it does not have much new to offer. In addition to the points mentioned, what is particularly striking about this production is that the characteristic eerie atmosphere and the tension that are usually successfully present in other Amicus productions according to this recipe, are here to a lesser extent or sometimes barely visible. This is due to the announcement that the stories told are dreams, the sometimes relatively long lapping of a story or that there are too few or no developments that have an unmistakable or appealing dark undertone.

Furthermore, director Baker does not always seem to know which direction he wants to take with his stories. horror? Humour? A horror film with some humor here and there? The latter seems especially the case, but the comic notes present in the stories are not always successful and, given the tone of the stories as a whole, they repeatedly come across as misplaced or too forced. And ensures that in terms of horror, things are not as effective as they could have been. There are also some inconsistencies in the stories. And although there is little to criticize about the actors’ play in this Amicus production, director Baker’s approach ensures that this ‘The Vault of Horror’ falls behind the other productions that Amicus has released according to this recipe. It certainly has its successful moments, is all in all worth it for fans of these productions, but a repetition or equalization of the quality of the other similar Amicus productions should not be counted on.

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