The Vault (2000)

Starring Leopoldo Mandeville, Ted Lyde, Shani Pride, Michael Cory Davis, Kyle Walker, Austin Priester, James Black, Parris Washington, Java Benson

Directed by James Black

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Vault sees a group of students and their teacher taking a trip to Washington High School. This field trip is not along the usual lines, though, as Washington High is rundown, boarded up and set to be demolished. The teacher, Mr. B (Ted Lyde), wishes his students, who are all delinquents in some form, to appreciate their opportunities and their education, and he thinks that taking them to visit his old school will do this. But it’s not Washington’s place in Mr. B’s history that draws him to it, it’s more because of its history before it was a school. During the 1800s, it served as a way station for the slave trade, and so in connecting to this history he hopes his students will leave with a newfound respect and outlook on their world.

Of course, The Vault is a horror movie, so you know things are not going as planned. Before we meet the teacher and his students, we are clued in that something supernatural is afoot in the school — particularly behind a locked door in the basement: the titular vault. It’s common for B-Movies to start with something to grab your attention, but I think in this case, it would’ve been more effective to have placed the confidence on the audience and the strength of the premise. But The Vault is barely longer than an hour as it is, and I don’t know that the main portion of the movie could withstand more fattening. It’s already kind of slow as it is, so I guess I should stop now and just concede that the film is in its best state as it was released. Hahahaha.

I love the premise and mystery at the heart of The Vault, but the execution holds it back. I can’t point to any one flaw that sinks the film, but if I were to select the biggest it’d be the dialogue. I know this is a low-budget horror film trading in well-worn situations, but the dialogue is often bad enough to suck the life out of an otherwise interesting scene. It’s a shame because the acting is mostly pretty good, with Leopoldo Mandeville as the school’s security watchman and Ted Lyde as Mr. B shining the brightest. The kids are more hit or miss, but they do well in presenting each of their defined character types.

The Vault is the only directorial effort from actor and ex-Cleveland Browns player James Black (who also plays the van driver here), but he does a great job of building an oppressive atmosphere within the derelict Washington High School. His framing and usage of shadows to fill the screen in interesting ways is very well done, and he shoots the vault door in a suitably ominous manner. It’s enough to wish that he had continued down this path and made another movie, but who knows, perhaps one was enough for him. In any case, the film has a good feel to it in terms of atmosphere, as well as some fun, inventive kills, so it’s sort of disappointing the rest of the film doesn’t deliver in the same way.

The Vault is based around an interesting concept that is relatively well-realized, it’s just that the script itself is not up to par. The dialogue makes an otherwise intriguing movie into a hard one to invest yourself in and it’s a shame. I wanted to love this one, and part of my underdog spirit still does, but it’s just not good enough to overcome its faults. I’d still recommend it to low-budget fans, because it is one of the better “urban” Full Moon films, but I think general horror audiences would have a tough time with The Vault.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be watching the newest Full Moon film: Puppet Master: Axis Termination! I was going to wait until it was out as a movie and not a 3-part series, but whatever, it’s only October once a year! See ya then!

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