Director: Dan Bush
Starring: Francesca Eastwood, Taryn Manning, Scott Haze, Q’orianka Kilcher, Clifton Collins Jr., James Franco
“There’s a vault downstairs, but it’s haunted.”
“Ok, don’t really fancy that. We’ll rob another bank. Cheers.”
That’s how the exchange within the movie would probably go in real life. The delightful thing about horror movies is the lack of common sense shared by the characters, and God bless ‘em. A gang of wired robbers attempt to rob a bank – one which has seen its fair share of robberies in the past – when the assistant manager drops the ghoulish bombshell. Unperturbed, the robbers continue with their mission which, obviously, is doomed to fail.
That’s not a spoiler, it’s just obvious.
The day of the robbery is like any other day, one that’s winding to a close as staff begin to lust over going home. The local police detective Iger (Collins Jr.) casually and creepily flirts with the head teller Susan (Kilcher) as a petite lady, Leah (Eastwood) is taken for an interview with the manager. The standard pain-in-the-arse customer, Vee (Manning), is arguing with another teller over bounced cheques. Outside, a few shifty firemen have broken away from a blazing fire downtown. Within minutes, the firemen have entered and secured the bank, revealing themselves to be the robbers along with sisters Leah and Vee who begin taking hostages.
Breaking into the banks safe, they find around $70k. As they all need money to pay off various debts, that amount just won’t cut it. Their growing panic and rage are softened slightly when assistant manager Ed (Franco) calmly explains that there is a vault that contains millions of dollars, but it hasn’t been opened for decades and no one dares go near it – something evil lurks within it. Ignoring the warning, the gang set about opening the vault and claiming the riches, however the heist is quickly halted as the evil is released – and it has history with bank robbers.
A horror-heist movie sounds cool, and it’d be even cooler if it was pulled off successfully. Thankfully it was - in 2016’s Don’t Breathe and less successfully in Dead Heist (shudder). The Vault begins excellently as it shifts from character to character, beckoning the audience to solve who is honest and who has wrong intentions. It’s a promising, slow setup. Unfortunately, the movie races into gear too quickly and the resulting hodgepodge heist/undead flick quickly dissipates into folly.
The intersecting stories suffer from editing issues and, simply, writing issues. The action flits between random interjections of the bank holdup to dark corridors where nothing tense transpires – the framing doesn’t work and the way the movie is shot doesn’t lend itself to great horror. The characters come and go for large parts of the movie, sometimes popping up erratically to do nothing and receive next to no depth, which isn’t ideal as the story revolves around the familial aspect of the gang - though Francesca Eastwood was capable of leading the movie and was OK for her role. The hostages may as well have been non-existent as they’re thrown into a room and forgotten about. The lurking evil isn’t really that shocking and the movies twist is spoiled halfway through the movie.
The soundtrack throughout was horrible. Jarring and out of sync with what was happening on screen.
As mentioned, the beginning is a great set up, the characters revealing their tones slowly and the realisation that the staff are being duped was a satisfying entry. When the gang did begin to receive some characterisation, they were painted as flawed and sympathetic (kind of) which is nice to see from the standard good guy vs. bad guy routine, but it was too sparse and fleeting to really resonate. James Franco sported a fine moustache/top lip tickler, but that was pretty much his involvement in a cameo appearance to pass the time before his next big project.
Where Don’t Breathe utilised long stretches of silence to ramp up the tension and uses every inch of their surroundings to create a claustrophobic, maze-like setting, The Vault fails on both accounts. The key protagonist and antagonist are developed in that movie whereas here, there’s nothing of the sort. It’s a shame because had the movie continued with a mystery-thriller story that was hinted at right away, then The Vault could’ve been so much better. For few good ideas here, the swathes of negatives are far more prominent.
I’ll stick to online banking, you can keep your vault.
September 3rd 2017