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Old 04-15-2007, 09:33 PM
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Default Vault, The



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: August 12, 2002

Released by: Full Moon
Release date: 3/31/2001
MSRP: $19.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



Motion pictures about the effects that black slavery in the early 1900's has had on society have been a major focus throughout the years of cinema's progression and development. To Kill A Mockingbird, Amistad, and The Color Purple are all classics about the repercussions of such harsh times. Full Moon's low budget horror film, The Vault, is not one of those classics, but it tries to have fun with the script that its got. Presented in a full out special edition, Full Moon Pictures has really gone all out on this release. The big question though, is whether the film is good enough to go along with all the supplemental content. Let's crack open this vault and take a look.

The Story

inline ImageAn obnoxious street kid is spray-painting graffiti on the walls of Washington High School, a broken down and abandoned building. As he doodles away, he hears a noise behind a boarded up door. Intrigued, he decides to pop off the boards and take a look at what lies behind the locked up door. That is until a man in uniform (Leopoldo Papi) warns the boy that beyond that door lies a grave demon, and that he must be kept inside at all costs. The boy refuses to believe the old man's preaching and decides to try and open the door, but before that happens he is struck dead by the officer. The secret of The Vault is preserved for now, but assuredly someone else will come to screw that all up.

inline Image Enter Mr. B and his four prototypical students. 'Zipper' the computer geek, Kyle the gangster, Willy the joker and Dezaray the intelligent girl. Together they are on their way to the high school, which as it turns out, used to be a processing center for slaves entering from Africa. Apparently Sahzuku, a cruel slave with severe black magic skills killed many of the other slaves in an attempt at gaining freedom. He was locked away and left to die in 'The Vault', but his soul still lives on (much like Shaft's does). Trying to salvage memorabilia from the old school, the five-member group splits up and searches the building.

inline Image It is not long until one of the kids manages to open The Vault's door, thereby releasing the deadly spirit of Sahzuku. Soon enough the body count begins to rise as various members of the group begin getting picked off one by one. With each death Sahzuku's spirit gets stronger, and he needs only a few more victims for his restoration to be complete. It is now up to the remaining survivors to outwit, outplay and outlast the demonic slave and put him back where he belongs.

inline ImageThe Vault is the standard fare we have come to expect from Full Moon. With its low budget, cheesy effects, and poor production values, you either like it or you don't. I fall mostly in the latter category, but I must say, this is one of Full Moon's better recent efforts. The acting is fairly well done, with all of the principles exhibiting charisma and excitement towards their roles. They really had fun with their characters, and even though they were mighty cliché, they come off with plenty of life.

The special effects are also a notch up from Full Moon's usual fare, with kudos going to a fairly convincing shot of a partial head decapitation. The ghost effects are weak, but overall the rest of the effects are fairly impressive for such a low budgeted production.

inline Image There are definitely some problems with the film, most notably the ugly lighting schemes. The color setup of harsh blues and rose reds really clash and many times detract from what is happening on screen. The film would have definitely benefited from using earth tones over the rather unattractive colors presented on screen. Another problem lies within the story itself. The happenings take place in broad daylight, which lessens the little amount of suspense present in the film and the fact that the captives don't even try escaping from the windows on the bottom floor is an unforgivable plot hole.

The directing is basically a point and shoot affair, with little style injected into the photography, and overall, this film just isn't really that good. It does have some things going for it, but the plot is fairly by the numbers and the able cast is given little to do. To its credit, the film is never boring…but it is never really entertaining either. The Vault is a decent film in comparison to most of Full Moon's other pictures, but outside of that it is just another forgettable horror exercise.

Image Quality

Like Full Moon's HorrorVision, The Vault was shot digitally in an anamorphic 1.85:1 ratio, and looks pretty good considering its low budget. Because it is digital there is no blemishes or grain to be seen, and everything looks pretty clear and sharp. Color representation is decent, but given the horrible lighting scheme of the film that isn't really a blessing. Some of the shots when the van is driving the students to the abandoned school look a little bizarre, as the frame rate appears to fluctuate. There are also some weird rainbow effects on the seats during the driving scene as well. Other than these two irregularities, this is a good transfer.

Sound

The Vault is presented in a 2-channel Dolby Stereo track, and it sounds decent. The dialogue is very clear, and the "horror rap" music (as Director James Black calls it) is nice and forceful. Not a whole lot of left and right directional movement, but the sound field is varied and comes through nicely. This track is nothing special, but services the film adequately.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageFull Moon's "Lunar Edition" line of special editions promise expansive supplements, and their DVD of The Vault is no slouch in this department. The slightest supplements consist of a plethora of Full Moon trailers, including HorrorVision and The Dead Hate The Living, as well as a 15 minute Tempe Entertainment trailer reel with various other trailers presented at times to country music(!). There is also a worthless Filmography for James Black that covers half the screen.

inline ImageMore substantially are the two documentaries: The Making of "The Vault" and Into the Black: Reflecting of a Decade. The former entails all the various components of the film, from the acting to the special effects, and runs 25 minutes. It is fairly entertaining, and the outtakes at the end are good for a few good laughs. Into the Black looks at how James Black progressed from a football star to a recurring actor in Full Moon films and finally as the director of The Vault. Plenty of the people who know Black, from his brother to his fellow actors, chime in some entertaining anecdotes about the guy, and make the 33 minutes somewhat enjoyable.

There is also a commentary included for The Vault that has both Producer J. R. Bookwalter and Director James Black jokingly recollecting throughout. James Black really lets himself go here, constantly joking around and even bursting into song at one point. Compared to his rather laid back interviews included on the disc, he is much more lively and helps keep the commentary entertaining. The two guys talk about acquiring their set locations, give thanks to the various people involved in the film, and even talk about a homeless lady at one point. It is a nice little track, although at times it can be a bit childish.

inline ImageThe biggest (and best) supplement on the disc is the short film, Galaxy of the Dinosaurs, which marked James Black's starring role debut. It is a funny 65 minute film involving a group of space travelers who stop off on a foreign planet inhabited by dinosaurs. The acting is intentionally horrible, and the dinosaur footage is edited from the cheaply made 1978 movie, Planet of the Dinosaurs, but the movie is very entertaining and much more worthwhile than The Vault. There is even an amusing parody of Planet of the Apes included at the end. I was pleasantly surprised with this film, and it makes me wonder why Full Moon didn't opt to have this as the main feature on the disc.

There is also a commentary for the film, again featuring James Black and J. R. Bookwalter, and this commentary is the same in spirit as the one for The Vault. James Black hasn't even seen this film before, so he doesn't have much insight to share on the film, but Bookwalter's fondness for the film more than makes up for it. Galaxy of the Dinosaurs, its commentary, and Into the Black can all be found in the "Spotlight on Director James Black" selection in the Special Features menu. Overall, there is a fine batch of supplements here, more so definitely than the film deserves.


Final Thoughts

The Vault is a cheap and ultimately unsatisfying haunted house takeoff that is on par with the rest of Full Moon's films. The video transfer looks very good considering the budget, and the sound is serviceable. The supplements run over three hours, and are often times more entertaining than the film itself. The included movie, Galaxy of the Dinosaurs is a fun little diversion, and I recommend watching this over The Vault. Given this is readily available for under $10, fans of The Vault will be in heaven with this release, and the adventurous may want to pick this up to see Galaxy of the Dinosaurs.

Rating

Movie - C-
Image Quality - B
Sound - C+
Supplements - A


Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 12 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English stereo

Supplements
  • Feature length film: Galaxy of the Dinosaurs
  • Commentary for both The Vault and Galaxy of the Dinosaurs with Producer J. R. Bookwalter and Director/Star James Black.
  • The Making of The Vault documentary
  • Into the Black: Reflecting of a Decade documentary
  • 6 Full Moon trailers
  • Tempe Entertainment trailer reel
  • James Black Filmography

Other Pictures

 

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