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The Vault of Horror – 7

Director – Roy Ward Baker

Cast – Daniel Massey, Anna Massey, Terry-Thomas, Glynis Johns, Curd Jürgens, Dawn Addams, Jasmina Hilton, Ishaq Bux, Michael Craig, Edward Jugg, Robin Nedwell, Geoffrey Davies, Tom Baker, Denholm Elliott

Release Year – 1973

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Basing their stories on the EC horror comics, Amicus put out some of the most enjoyable horror anthologies from the mid 60s to the early 70s. Following the successful Asylum a mere year later, director Roy Ward Baker returned to give us The Vault of Horror. In this twisted tale we follow five men who enter an elevator (“lift”) and find themselves trapped in the basement vault of an office building. To pass the time each man shares his most recent nightmare, a recurring dream having to do with the his gruesome death.

The first segment is “Midnight Mess”, where a greedy man goes off in search of his younger sister in hopes of killing her and keeping their recently deceased father’s fortune for himself. He finds her residing in a small rural town and is warned by his sister not leave her home after dark because “they” are out there. After finishing the deed he ventures out to a nearby restaurant for a post-murder meal, soon realizing that he should have heeded his sister’s warning when he himself becomes part of the menu. I really liked this short tale and found it a pretty horrific one on many levels. We have the brother slaying his sister over money, then him meeting his gruesome demise thanks to a sect of vampires, only to suffer another heinous fate thanks to the story’s grand climax. The direction is solid and Baker’s execution of the horror is top notch in this short but sweet segment.

Next up is “The Neat Job”, which follows a newly married neat freak whose obsession with cleanliness brings both himself and his clumsy wife to a marriage where death does do them part, or “parts” I should say. This was my least favorite of the series and that was due to its silly story and quirky execution. The segment lacked horror for the extreme majority of the experience and did not become enjoyable until the very end where we see the after effect of some sweet dismemberment. Of course, by then it was too late and I was left wishing this entry had been eliminated from the 5-part anthology.

The third segment is “This Trick’ll Kill You”, where a husband and wife magician duo travel to India in search of new tricks and stumble upon a supernatural phenomenon they will kill to have…and they do just that and suffer dire consequences. This was an interesting story that was quite simple but nonetheless effective thanks to Baker’s direction. We watch in horror as the duo savagely kill a young woman who possesses a magical rope that defies logic and is obviously of supernatural origin, but this new secret to the couple’s success will cost them their lives when it achieves vengeance for its former owner.

Next up is “Bargain in Death”, which follows a man who fakes his death as part of an ingenious insurance scam, only to suffer a far worse fate than he imagined. This was an enjoyable tale told in the third person by the protagonist as he and an accomplice try to outwit his insurance agency and make off with the money from his life insurance policy. The story is predictable and it isn’t as creepy as the other entries (minus “The Neat Job”, but nonetheless it ends in horrific fashion and was a worthy addition.

Last is “Drawn and Quartered”, which follows a starving artist who employs voodoo to gain revenge on those who wronged him financially. This was a great way to end the segments and came heavy in vengeance. After being told that his paintings are worthless and offered little money for them, the artist learns that he is in fact an artistic genius and his management has been selling his paintings themselves and amassed a fortune doing so. Unable to do anything legally he successfully executes a voodoo curse where he paints a picture of the person he wants to kill and within moments they are killed in the same fashion. If this reminds you of Death Note you are right on my friend. There are numerous enjoyable kills and the horror does not end at those who wronged the artist, as each of these stories are intended to end with the storyteller being killed in a brutal fashion.

In a sense I was glad to see that this anthology consisted of five films instead of the usual three segments and then the wraparound, but at the same time the five films suffered from short runtimes that did not leave much room for development. Nonetheless the end result was a pretty horrific one that managed to, at the very least, give us a horrific ending to each of the five segments. As far as the wraparound goes it ends just like I expected it to, which happens to be a similar climax seen in other horror anthologies.

Overall, The Vault of Terror is a horror anthology that I recommend to those looking to get into older anthologies like these Amicus films. There is plenty of horror to go around and we are given a few good jolts as well thanks to Baker’s solid direction.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

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