The Vault [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - FilmRise
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (13th April 2019).
The Film

How about this for a mash-up? What initially starts out as a heist job gone wrong veers into an atmospheric horror film genre with shades of "Youíre Next" (2011) thrown in for good measure. I canít recall every seeing these two tried and true genres combining together to make for some entertaining distraction, but this odd formula seems to work somehow. And guess what? Writer/Director Dan Bush even tries to make us care about his characters by trying to invoke something of developmental structure by hinting at the main characterís troubled past and including his two siblings into the shenanigans at the bank which made me yearn for more backstory; but hey, at least heís trying, right? Bush was one of three directors that had helmed the 2007 independent film, "The Signal", and hopefully this is a sign of bigger and better productions to come.

The film starts out innocuously enough as a bank is getting ready to close for the day, however there are still customers inside, and we also are shown a woman Leah (Francesca Eastwood) is being interviewed for a position by the manager. We can tell that something is cooking by the way the camera continues to cut to the line of customers where Vee (Taryn Manning) is channeling her inner Aileen Wuornos by giving the innocent teller some serious grief. Head teller Susan Cromwell (Q'orianka Kilcher) tries to calm the womanís rage by stepping in to help, but by then it is too late. Turns out that Leah and Vee are sisters and they are heavily armed. In fact, their brother Michael (Scott Haze) is joining the party as he and two other men disguised as firemen are let into the bank by the officer on duty James Aiken (Jeff Gum). With the gang assembled, the usual bank robbery procedures take place; people are manhandled, profanity and threats are uttered, and all the folks are ushered into the vault. It seems that Michael owes somebody a large amount of money and either he pays up or he dies; well, hell, since heís family that works for me, Iím in. So now we have a semi "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975) type set up, what more can go wrong? The answer: plenty.

Speaking up like a regular guy is Assistant Manager Ed Maas (James Franco), he of twitching mustache and nervous demeanor. Seems like there is a procedure that must happen in a certain order involving the tellerís drawers, otherwise a phone call is automatically dispatched to the police station and then the heat arrives. And here the bad guys thought that they had all the angels covered by setting off that building on fire as a major distraction. On top of that, it seems that the take is fairly light; whatís a hard working stick up chick to do, but start threatening the employees and also squabble with her sister? No time like the present to work out all of those long standing differences while the clock counts down. Assistant Manager Ed has a bright idea: seems that there is an older vault downstairs and inside it is a cool six million bucks, so why donít yíall go check it out. In fact, here are the keys; now, how handy is that? Me, being the suspicious type, would immediately have thought that this was a trap; and me being right, it is. What we donít know is that a certain "The Twilight Zone" (1959-1964) feeling is about to start, one that involves the supernatural and a previous robbery, say about 1981.

Now it is impossible to proceed without spoilers and revealing various twists and turns, but I am warning you, vital plot swerves lie ahead. Now, of course, anyone worth their salt as a horror fan would be able to see what is ahead of us. The question is how well does the director manage to bridge one genre to another? The beginning of the film starts off rather well; we all know how bank heist capers end as well. So which way is Bush going to take us? So far the violence has been rather low and the actual brutality has been kept off screen, but now Bush has decided to put the petal to the metal and see how fast this machine can run. The only character that we seem to care about is Michael, simply because he has had some screen time where Susan and him are in the bathroom and she keeps telling him that ďheís a nice guy.Ē There is a scene where we are shown Michael unwrapping his hand that is bleeding and tightly bandaged, but it is difficult to tell what this means. Was he hurt by the people that he owes the money to? Did they severe a pinky Yazuka style or give him the once over ala Eddie Knuckles style? We donít know and that is all we are going to get on that detail. This is too bad because Bush could have inserted a quick flashback that would have given us some severely needed details and would have helped with the characterís sympathy quotient. And what is the story regarding his two sisters? Why does Vee keep saying that Leah will take a powder once the job is finished? Have they actually robbed other banks previously or is it just a matter of bad blood? I was frustrated that Bush was hinting at some larger secret but thatís all it remained; a secret.

As we move on plot wise, we are now entering horror country and it is here that Bush sort of kicks out the jams. We have had various hints that a previously mentioned heist went very bad and that is where the macabre elements come into play. We see flashbacks of people in a similar situation, tied up and bank bags over their heads, and we are told that the mastermind behind the job basically lost it and started executing people one by one because he knew that he wasnít walking out alive. Here is where the graphic violence starts to inch up the meter, first with one of the robbers being mobbed by the deceased former employees. These malevolent characters are seen in shadow and they quickly disappear, only to reappear with company, and apparently they can affect people in the here and now. We see Kramer (Michael Milford) the safe cracker being menaced as the sisterís watch upstairs on the monitor, but they canít see what he sees. Eventually Kramer commits suicide with a large electric drill; shades of Lucio Fulciís "City of the Living Dead" (1980)! The special effects are nice and juicy as Kramer is self-lobotomized. The next thug to die is Cryus (Keith Loneker) who is tasked with a basic math question when Leigh asks him repeatedly to count the hostages. Cyrus starts losing his sanity when more people with bags on their head keep appearing and obligingly eats his double barrelled shotgun, leaving a nasty stain on the wall. This leaves the Dillon clan left to be killed by the former hold up victims and it is only a matter of time before they too met a nasty demise. The question is not when, but how?

We see sister Vee walking around in the basement, looking for that all important money. We also see various spooks that come in and out of the shadows or simply walk past the camera in medium shot. I know, not really my idea of scary, but I reckon that some folks will easily fall for the cheap heat. I did have to mention that this film made me think of Herk Harveyís "Carnival of Souls" (1962) with itís now you see Ďem and now you donít undead survivors. Vee comes upstairs and has a bag of cash and says that thereís a lot more where this came from, but the Leigh takes a closer look and exclaims that all this money was printed in 1982. Yeah, so whatís the big deal about that? You can still spend cash from 1982 right?

Bro Michael is supposed to be down in the basement and arc welding a hole into some large pipe that will enable the trio to make their escape but he gets distracted by a sobbing woman that says that her ankle is broken. At first appearance, she seems fine, but then later changes into a charred face corpse. Gasp! Almost fooled me there. No, really, I saw that one coming early on. While the two sisters keep up arguing about their pasts, Michael starts dousing the place with gas from a can. From the looks of it, the walls are all cinderblock, so exactly what is going to burn here? I know, shut up and just go with it. Michael is tossing some Molotov cocktails from room to room while Leah kindly helps free some hostages. Sister Vee is nowhere to be seen. Did she drop out of the film unexpectedly? More spooks keep appearing and they start surrounding Michael. ďGo onĒ he croaks and lights his trusty zippo as a huge fireball erupts and Leigh continues to crawl through the pipe.

Suddenly we are transported to somewhere in the country and Leah is driving a jeep. The radio is playing and we can hear the newscaster reading some copy that explains that all the suspects are assumed to be dead. Leah pulls over by the side of the road and from the woods appears sister Vee; the money is in a duffle on the ground between them. Vee keeps asking where Michael is, but Leah is sobbing and canít readily answer. Leah wants to confirm that Vee saw what she saw, but Vee says that she doesnít remember much except the cops shooting at her.

We cut to a police interrogation room and Detective Tom Inger (Clifton Collins Jr.) is quizzing various survivors about what happened in the bank. Detective Tom wants to know who was it that gave the robbers all that information about the codes and disarming the system, but no one has any answers except head teller Susan is puzzled; she is looking at a bulletin board that has various photos attached to it, including newspaper clippings about the 1982 robbery. Susan points out Assistant Manager Ed Maas as being the man that gave the robbers the important information. That canít be the man answers Inger, he was, wait for it, one of the original victims! Gasp! How can that be? We saw the man, but he doesnít show up on any of the surveillance cameras. That can only mean that he was a ghost, right? The film cuts to the same footage that started the film: Ed is in the break room making a cup of tea, he glances at the digital clock: 4:55, and then someone screams. He picks up the phone and calls the police; we hear him say that there is a bank robbery happening and he gives the location. This is the same call that we heard being made throughout the film repeatedly.

Cut back to the girls who now seem okay with each otherís company; now the car wonít start. Vee gets out and tells Leah to pop the hood and crank it when she tells her. The radio comes on and starts playing Tommy James & The Shondellsí hit ďCrimson and CloverĒ which had played during the opening credits. Vee shuts the hood and suddenly there appears the masked bank robber, who snaps her neck and fade to black. Final credits roll.

In the end "The Vault" is a good effort, but the film sags visibly in the middle before the ending which tries desperately to tie up all loose ends. The score by Shaun Drew was impressive with its quiet steady pace.

Video

The image is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p HD 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The cinematography by Andrew Shulkind was alright but nothing amazing; the first part of the film seemed to be the best but again, more substance was craved by this reviewer. The scenes in the basement were moderately spooky but tended to be hard to see. A tad more noir-ish lighting would have helped immensely.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The helpful feature of subtitles is great. Sometimes you couldnít understand what someone said. The score is interesting and pulsates in the background without being overwhelming. Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

A single extra is included, the film's original theatrical trailer (1:56).

Packaging

Comes packaged in a standard blu ray clamshell case.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: D Overall: C+

 


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