Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Nobody did horror quite like EC Comics. Many of those classic tales were adapted for the popular HBO series Tales from the Crypt in the 80s and 90s, but what many people these days don't know is that series was preceded by two films in the 1970s titled Tales from the Crypt and today's film The Vault of Horror!
Like its predecessor, Vault is an anthology film, featuring five stories joined by a framing device. As the film opens, we see five strangers in a skyscraper riding the elevator to the ground floor, except the car continues past the lobby and into the sub-basement. Finding no way out, the men make themselves comfortable and regale each other with tales of their most vivid and terrifying nightmares.
The first tale is about a man seeking his estranged sister in order to murder her for her inheritance from their late father as she has been named the sole heir. After killing the private investigator he hired to track her down, he travels to the town where she's been hiding. He finds the residents less than welcoming, and strangely afraid of the dark.
The second tale tells of a man with an obsessive need for neatness. His compulsive behavior and violent outbursts slowly wear on his younger bride's nerves until she reaches a breaking point.
In the third tale, a husband an wife magician team travel to India in search of something new for their act. When they happen across a rope trick that even they cannot figure out, they decide they must have the secret, no matter the cost.
The fourth tale follows the tragic tale of a writer who uses a chemical compound to slow his metabolism and fake his own death in order to collect on the insurance money, lamenting that there's simply no money in horror. But his plan backfires when his accomplice betrays him and two struggling medical students conspire to steal his "corpse" for their studies.
The final, and arguably the best, tale depicts a reclusive artist living in Haiti. Believing himself a failure, he is shocked to learn that his art is actually highly valued in London, and he's been lied to by a trio of art dealers and critics. Wanting revenge, he seeks out a local voodoo priest, who gives him the power to inflict damage on real-world objects through his paintings. Of course, this power comes at a terrible price.
In the end, the elevator door opens to reveal a graveyard. The men exit one by one, and we learn that they are damned to relive this night, confessing their sins to one another, for all eternity.
While it's not nearly as terrifying as it predecessor or even more modern horror anthologies like Creepshow or Tales from the Darkside, The Vault of Horror is still a worthy addition to any serious horror fan's collection. Tom Baker, best known for his role as the fourth Doctor in Doctor Who, steals the show with his performance as the artist in the fifth tale. I decided to watch and review this one because it doesn't get near the attention that Tales from the Crypt gets. The two films can often be found together on DVD. If you can find them, check them both out. Both films are great for fans looking for something with more story, but less gory.