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John’s Horror Corner: The Vault of Horrors (1973), not quite living up to its Tales from the Crypt prequel, but fun nonetheless.

June 5, 2015

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MY CALL: A decent classic, but a classic may often feel dated. Keep your expectations low and this may be very entertaining.  OTHER HORROR ANTHOLOGIES:  Some other fun, decent and/or clever anthologies include (in order of release date):  Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Uncanny (1977), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Creepshow 2 (1987), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Campfire Tales (1997), 3 Extremes (2004), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013) and The ABCs of Death 2 (2014).

Based on comic book stories Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, this British anthology begins when five strangers accidently take an elevator to the “subbasement” of a building only to end up trapped in a room where they all have no choice but to sit, pour a drink and chat to pass the time. The theme of conversation is that each of them inexplicably shares the recent experience of a grave dream that felt so real that it was as if it really happened. They take turns goading each other to share their dreams, which clearly seem disturbing to each story teller.

The stories involve murderers, double crosses, being buried alive, vampires and voodoo vengeance.  Perhaps due to the dated style, these horror stories will bring you no sense of horror today.  Also, unlike its Tales from the Crypt (1972) predecessor, these stories largely do not seem as iconic or particularly interesting. This film has a lower IMDB (6.6 vs. 7.0) and Rotten Tomatoes (51% vs 70%) scores. They’ll still make you smile, though.  Think of them more as campfire stories than facets of a horror film.

There are five short stories, one for each stranger…

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Midnight Mess is about a man who hunts down his missing sister to a quiet little town with the intention of murdering her for her recently inherited fortune. During his trip, he his warned by several locals that “they” come out at night. Confused by this warning, and clearly not heeding it, he goes about his business and finds out the hard way that he should have listened.

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“Your fangs look so legit.”
“Thank you.  Yours, too.”

This short story is unforgivably dumb and made me think twice about continuing with the movie. I’ll admit that I giggled at the final scene…but it was bad. Thankfully, the stories get better.

The Neat Job features an obsessive-compulsive neat freak who, without getting to know her, marries a woman so he would have someone to take care of him. Unfortunately she lacks his unhealthy attention to detail and order, which creates much tension between them and leads to dire consequence for one of them.

This story was an absolute delight and by far my favorite of the anthology. It is rich with dark comedy as we see his obsession blossom before his now fearful wife, who is driven mad by his mania. Truly a pleasure.

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This Trick’ll Kill You is about a magician and his espoused magician’s assistant on vacation in India to discover a new trick for his act. He discovers a mystic woman with a magical rope trick that he absolutely must have—but it’s not for sale. Desperate for success on stage, he will do anything to possess the secret of the trick.

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This one was a mixed bag. It started out very interesting only to later reveal that there was nothing behind the story; no clever twist or turn. It was entertaining, but conceptually simple to the point of disappointment.

Bargain in Death provides the answer to “what could possibly go wrong?” A man decides to fake his own death (using some metabolism-slowing drug of sorts) to cash in on an insurance policy. The catch is that his friend will cash in the policy and then dig him up from his grave before he suffocates in his coffin.

It’s not as predictable as it sounds. A bit random and a bit entertaining, but the story is nothing special.

Drawn and Quartered combines some interesting ideas used in later horror films/stories. An artist who is financially cheated by his agent wants revenge so he “buys voodoo” to bestow him with the ability to control fate. Whatever happens to his art, happens to whatever was painted. Destroy the painting, destroy the model. The catch? The artist must now protect his own self portrait.

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This was an interesting story and the fun was in the anticipation. The only short story better fitting to end this film would be The Neat Job, the two of them clearly being my favorites.

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This is a classic horror anthology not to be missed.  It may not be dripping with gore and the stories may seem simple by today’s standards, but it’s easy to see what makes this a beloved horror classic.

 

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