THE HORROR VAULT
As with any compilation of shorts, The Horror Vault is a mixed bag. Kim Sønderholm directs and stars in the first and fourth segments, When John Met Julia and Mental Distortion. When John Met Julia is reminiscent of the The Hitch-Hiker segment in Creepshow II (1987). While well played, Sønderholms direction is a little too methodical and never holds enough of the sharp surprises that an anthology segment like this needs. It could have worked well if the psychological games between John and Julia had been drawn out more, while the twist ending seems perfunctory. Mental Distortion is a lot more assured. Again it hangs around someone (Sønderholm himself) being haunted in their apartment. We never find out who the dead girl in the bath and Sønderholms nightmares is and the episode falters at its payoff, but is put together and played with a considerable professional assurance. The two actors seem at home in the roles and craft credible characters.
The second segment, Delusion, is one of the strongest segments in The Horror Vault. Director Mark Machillo and photographer Graham Futerfas do a superb job of capturing the mood and lighting effects of 1940s film noir melodrama. The story in the segment is slight but the mood captured is top notch.
Alone feels like could easily be the last 15 minutes of a 1980s slasher film. The entire segment hangs on the heroine (Mandy Amano) alone in the sorority house, unsure whether the detective at the door or the guy she has just let in are the killer or not. These are familiar doubt and suspicion set-ups for a slasher film but are well delivered and not too badly performed with director Kenny Selko riding the rollercoaster of the heroines suspicions in all the right places.
Dead to the World is a segment based on true-life serial killer Ted Bundy. The films five minutes are far too brief to do Bundy justice see the feature-length Ted Bundy (2002) for a far better treatment. The episode makes the case that Bundy was driven by rape as much as he was murder but the peculiarly named lead actor (and segment director) Russ Diaper does not in any way resemble the real Bundy Bundy was described as charming, calculating and highly intelligent; Diaper comes across as short, stocky and nervously hesitant. The other complaint one might have about Dead to the World and with The Horror Vault is that some of the segments come in different screen formats even after trying to adjust my screen, I wasnt able to view Dead to the World is anything other than an ugly stretch format that looked like it was shot through a distorting mirror.
Disconnected is a brief and effective piece that hangs on a sardonic twist ending. We go through a series of torture scenes a man having nails hammered into his fingers, fingers snipped off, legs broken, attacked with a power drill that become increasingly over-the-top before arriving at the twist ending, which is not unreminiscent of the Quitters, Inc segment of Cats Eye (1985). The segment is a single joke and comes with just the right length to be amusing and not outstay its welcome.
While the segments so far have held up to a reasonable quality, The Demon is an amateurish piece. Thomas Steen Sørensen is constantly straining for atmosphere and in doing so only ever discovers horror cliches. The segment consists of a man being pursued a figure that is wearing obvious contact lenses, before the hackneyed end twist that shows that the demon figure was only in his head.
Echoes is another episode in mixed screen format. The segment is brief and only really hangs around various trompe loeil imagery the man handcuffed in a bed revealed as being a mental patient in a hospital, the dead soldier and zombies being other patients, the woman with a handful of worms being a nurse with a handful of pills and so on. Brief enough to make the point but one felt the segment could have been developed more than that.
When it comes to Retina, I must confess to having no idea what the segment was about. A group of people gather in a house anticipating the return of a friend. In some scenes they are blind, in others sighted but it is not at all clear why. The segment is shot in some amazing grainy black-and-white camerawork that captures an incredibly deranged, fractured mindspace but as to what is going on, it could be anybodys guess.