The Vault (2017)
★ / ★★★★
Surely there is horror to be had in a hostage situation and so the combination of heist film and the horror genre should result in an interesting mix. But “The Vault,” written by Dan Bush and Conal Byrne, directed by the former, proves to be yet another uninspired take on either genres and, as an admixture, an unimaginative experiment. You know a movie is in trouble when a would-be creepy shadow walks in front of the camera and the score booms as if to deafen the audience into submission. These jump scares are never earned.
The story begins with a bank robbery as various individuals enter the building giving knowing looks to one another. It is only a matter of time until they pull out the big guns and command the unsuspecting victims to get on the floor. While the opening minutes command a level suspense and tension, particularly because of the performances by Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood as two sisters, one volatile and the other calmer but calculating, respectively, these scenes do not provide anything special and memorable. Interesting, however, is that the five thieves are smart enough to start a fire in a nearby warehouse so that the authorities will be distracted enough by the chaos.
A number of characters are wasted—strange because memorable faces are employed. A welcome addition is Q’orianka Kilcher as a lead bank teller. During the more dramatic moments in which her character attempts to appeal to the humanity of one of the robbers (Scott Haze), notice how underused she is. Although she delivers one of the quieter performance, I argue her approach is the most intriguing. Another missed opportunity is the casting of Clifton Collins Jr. as a detective who hears a plea for help on the radio. Other than to look concerned outside of the bank, the screenplay fails to establish the character as a keen problem-solver or as an effective man with a badge at the very least.
The film begins the nosedive it never recovers from as supernatural elements are introduced. Under the condition that no one else gets harmed, the assistant manager (James Franco) volunteers information that there is six million in the bank’s vault which is conveniently located underground. The events that unfold in the basement are most uninspired. The ghouls look like they are ripped right off an ordinary haunted house walkthrough. Notice the lack of details in their masks, the bad cosmetics, how they move, and the sounds they make. None of it is convincing; at times it is actually laughable that the charade is supposed to be scary.
“The Vault” relies on the idea that just because something strange lurks in the dark, everything else would appear or feel creepy. Unlike the happenings on the bank floor, there is no tension-building underground and so the scares command no power. Mixing of genres is a daring feat because both must work on their own first and be equally effective together. In this case, however, one is marginally tolerable—the robbery—and the other is appalling—the horror. It is a shame because there is a mildly intriguing backstory that occurred in 1982.