The Vault of Horror (1973)


*. They couldn’t really call it Tales from the Crypt 2 but this is another anthology horror film from the same studio as that earlier film. This time we have a group of people getting on an elevator and descending to a crypt — I mean the sub-basement — where they take turns telling scary stories. In other words, it’s Tales from the Crypt 2.
*. Actually, it was re-released as Tales from the Crypt, Part II and Further Tales from the Crypt in some parts of the United States. So there was never any mistaking what was going on.
*. Instead of the five men (no women this time) being presented with visions of their deaths by the Crypt Keeper, visions which they don’t remember, the tales are presented here as uncannily real dreams which are, in fact, visions of their deaths (which they don’t remember). The eccentric twist ending goes back to Dead of Night, the first of the British anthology horror films, but I can’t see any good reason for it here, where it just seems bizarre.
*. All of this means you’d be forgiven for writing The Vault of Horror off as more of the same, which it mainly is. It is, however, reasonably well done and is helped out by some decent effects and a gruesome sense of humour.
*. I did think it was a mistake to start off with the two strongest stories first. It’s impossible to forget the tap in the neck (crudely censored in some U.S. versions) and the organ jars in the basement. The next stories are pretty limp in comparison, and while the final story makes the most out of Tom Baker’s beard and some fun kills, it’s just a re-working of Dorian Gray without much of a new spin on it. Then there’s a pull back to the frame story, which really makes no sense at all when you think about it. Are these guys supposed to be in hell? Where is that graveyard located? As far as eternal punishments go, is sitting around the club talking to your mates all that bad?
*. It’s interesting how, in the second story, the always-watchable Terry-Thomas plays an older man supposedly robbing the cradle to wed one of his friend’s daughters. As it turns out, the young Eleanor is played by Glynis Johns, who was fifty at the time (and “only” twelve years younger than Terry-Thomas). I wonder if they were just sticking with the May-December angle because it was in the original story, or if they had thought of changing the script. They didn’t need Eleanor to be a kid, just a bit ditzy.
*. Yes, it’s generic stuff, and you’re really only sitting through fifteen or twenty minutes of set-up to get to a grisly punchline, but at least a couple of them pay off nicely. I think a movie like this only appeals to a narrow audience today, but there is something cozy about this brand of sick British chills.

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