Release Date(s)2017 (March 26, 2019)
Studio(s)Redwire Pictures/Content Media/Culmination Productions (FilmRise)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: F+
A combination heist flick and haunted house tale, The Vault begins with a gang led by sisters Leah (Francesca Eastwood, Alien Blood) and Vee (Taryn Manning, The Brawler) methodically entering a bank near closing time in the guise of customers and firemen and forcing the terrified customers and employees to kneel on the floor. When they only round up $70,000, the gang members argue among themselves. Leah wants to leave but Vee believes there’s far more money on the premises.
Trying to prevent people from being hurt, assistant manager Ed Maas (James Franco) volunteers that there are millions of dollars in the old vault in the basement. He doesn’t say that this vault was the target of a badly blundered bank robbery in 1986 in which a huge number of lives were lost. We learn that the ghosts from that robbery lie in wait to take vengeance upon any who enter their domain.
Director Dan Bush has attempted an interesting genre mashup. The bank robbery starts promisingly, as we meet the principal characters. The unusual approach to horror proves you can be original even on a limited budget. Once the supernatural element kicks in, the film becomes a horror foray into creepy shadows, jump shocks, looming terror, and gore.
The film is briskly paced and has enough action that we never get bored. However, the third act is disappointing, since it draws too heavily upon earlier horror films. It’s as if Bush coasted into the final credits. Most of the performances are credible, but Franco seems to be phoning this one in. His one-note performance never convinces us that his character is in great danger from bad guys with nervous trigger fingers.
Ms. Manning is especially effective in an early scene in which Vee creates a distraction by complaining that a few of her checks were unpaid, and Q’orianka Kilcher (The New World) is believable as a frightened cashier who develops a connection with one of the thieves, Michael (Scott Haze, Venom), the brother of Leah and Vee.
Ms. Eastwood’s Leah is the brains and leader of the gang. Calm, intelligent, and strong, Leah keeps her head even when her smoothly thought-out plans fall apart while the other gang members fall prey to the unexpected horrors in the basement. She’s a welcome alternative to the cinematic female who panics and is helpless when confronted with danger. Leah deals with whatever obstacle arises, no matter how extreme.
Though it’s hardly a landmark horror picture, The Vault has some pretty good moments and, at a trim 91 minutes, zips along. Dialogue is pared to the bone, and director Bush relies a lot on visuals to create mood and further the story.
The Blu-ray release features 1080p resolution. Aspect ratio is 2.40:1. The picture quality varies. The early bank scenes have typical fluorescent lighting and a bluish hue. The basement scenes are far more atmospheric and have a yellowish undertone. Lighting there is quite dark – sometimes to the point that you can’t make out what’s on screen. Flickering lights, flashlight beams, a demonic red glow, and security camera monitors provide light sources. Shadows are everywhere, masking much of the sets – recalling the 1940s R.K.O. films of Val Lewton. There are only two outdoor scenes, one at the beginning and one at the very end. The latter is shot in daylight, which contrasts with bank scenes that comprise most of the film.
Audio is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue is clear, with little ambient noise. There are occasionally distant sounds of helicopters when the police discover the robbery in progress. The basement's specters – never seen clearly – moan and grunt menacingly.
The only extra on this R-rated Blu-ray release of The Vault is the film’s theatrical trailer.
– Dennis Seuling