The Vault 2017
Two estranged sisters are forced to rob a bank to save their brother. The heist begins smoothly, but mayhem ensues when the defiant bank manager sends them to a basement-level vault where something truly evil dwells
September 1, 2017
Dan Bush and Conal Byrne
James Franco, Taryn Manning, and Francesca Eastwood
Everyone is excited for the impending release of Andy Muschietti’s IT, but that’s just one of many horror movies coming down the pike in September; if you haven’t heard of many it’s because the bulk are only getting limited theatrical releases or are going straight to VOD/Blu-ray/DVD. One of them in The Vault, an unlikely mash-up of heist and horror. While we’re seeing a resurgence in the “wrong-place-wrong” time scenario, exemplified in films like Don’t Breathe, movies where crooks pick the wrong “easy target” to victimize, it’s a tradition that goes back to Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left from 1972. The Vault enters and emerging subset of wrong-place-wrong-time with a supernatural twist. Like Livide (which remains unavailable in the US) and The House on Willow Street, the back-robbers of The Vault find themselves facing an X-factor that is not of this world.
Related Article: All Horror Movies Being Released in September 2017
The supernatural element of The Vault leads to a metaphysical conundrum, one that intensified the unfolding horror of the situation. In this way, it resembles films like The Last Shift and Grave Encounters, where supernatural activity is intrinsically bound to a specific geography. Like all films that utilize haunting tropes, The Vault is an exposition on the endurance of violence and the lingering after-effects of atrocities. You can add a new coat of paint, but some events leave a psychic scar that never heals and can’t be camouflaged.
Official Synopsis: Two estranged sisters are forced to rob a bank to save their brother. The heist begins smoothly, but mayhem ensues when the defiant bank manager sends them to a basement-level vault where something truly evil dwells.
The Vault is directed by Dan Bush who co-wrote the script with Conal Byrne; the film stars James Franco, Taryn Manning, and Francesca Eastwood.
I’m a big fan of James Franco; I loved him as a comic stoner stereotype and have been impressed by his dramatic turns in films that prove he has an incredible scope. I’ve been waiting for him to break into horror as a serious contender and was thrilled to see him receiving top-billing in The Vault. I was critical of his performance is the recent gothic thriller The Institute and was ready to be blown away, sincerely hoping Franco would prove his mettle. [Sigh] By the time the film hit the halfway mark, I clearly remember thinking that, while there were many interesting characters in the film, Franco was playing a 2-dimensional bank manager (Ed Maas), a man who doesn’t have many lines and spends the majority of the film merely furrowing his brow. I understand that they gave the biggest name the most integral role, as the Maas is eventually revealed to be a crucial lynchpin, I’d have much preferred to see his talents put to use as the brother (Michael Dillon played by Scott Haze), the mouthy hostage (played by Aleksander Vayshelboym), or even the mysterious “Man in the Porcelain Mask” (Jessee J. Clarkson). The role of Ed Maas is either unworthy of his talents or this character was vastly underdeveloped.
All of the key players are aptly portrayed by talented actors, especially the estranged sibling trio of the previously mentioned Haze, Francesca Eastwood, and Taryn Manning (Leah and Vee Dillon respectively). Manning could be playing an edgier version of her Orange is the New Black character Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett—and she’s fierce! A firecracker you definitely wouldn’t want to fuck with! Q’orianka Kilcher also deserves kudos for her portrayal of Head Teller Susan Cromwell, a character who seeks to defuse the situation by appealing to the human sides of the desperate robbers—a noble tactic that puts her in the position of becoming a target for retaliation.
There are some scripting issues that the writer in me couldn’t ignore; while I understand the director’s intentions as they pertain to maintaining an air of mystery, there were incongruities that made it obvious there was more than one person taking the Screenwriter’s credit. Certain ideas were treated hastily in favor of stylistic maneuvers, most of which were very exciting but, objectively, sloppy. Unfortunately, it’s difficult (impossible?) to point these out without revealing major spoilers. Needless to say, there are several layers of mystery in The Vault, but everything builds to a single Usual Suspects-style twist at the expense of more thorough and elaborate storytelling. The potential was there, as Bush displays incredible professional prowess, exemplified by a momentary reveal of a missing finger; it’s a small detail that instantly conjures an elaborate, believable back story in mere seconds.
The film’s First Act delivers some awesome suspense, putting us on edge immediately and then toying with us as we wait for the (bloody) shoe to drop. Acts 2 & 3 are problematic and meandering, losing pace at several crucial moments, allowing less invested viewers an opportunity to tune out. The final twist is satisfying, but a last-minute (and obvious) jump-scare feels cheap, coming at an otherwise poignant moment of sorrow and regret.
Bottom Line: I really enjoyed The Vault, but it didn’t live up to the high expectations I had when I heard it came from one of the writers/directors of 2007’s The Signal (Dan Bush) and starred James Franco; both are talented artists whose skills were underutilized. It’s still a great creeper and a treat for fans of a good heist drama. Those fond of actress Taryn Manning will love it; as in Orange is the New Black, she’s a consummate scene-stealer.