The Horror Vault (2008) – By Duane L. Martin

 The Horror Vault is a compilation of nine different horror shorts made by various film makers. There’s not much point in reviewing it as a whole because the quality varies from film to film, so I think the best way to do this is to first review each film individually and then afterwards I’ll talk about it as a collection.

So without further adieu…

When John Met Julia: A woman named Julia was hitchiking one night. She’s picked up by this guy named John, and half way to where she wants to go she asks him to stop. She starts coming on to him, and when he rejects her saying that he has a wife and kids, she accuses him of being a typical guy and stabs him. He rolls out of the car and she follows and hacks him up really badly, killing him and leaving him laying in the road. She goes home, cleans up and goes to bed, only to later be confronted by his corpse in her room and ends up dead.

This film was well made and the acting was ok, but the story was VERY standard and somewhat pointless as it’s been done a million times before. It’s the kind of a film that I would watch because it’s on the disc, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it if given a choice because there’s really nothing at all original about it.

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Delusion: This film takes place in the past and is done in black and white. A young man returns from Princeton, and he and his sister are attending a party given for him by his aunt. Their mother had recently died when she fell down the stairs in their home. An inspector attending the party starts making thinly veiled allegations that the son is the one that pushed her down the stairs and killed her. He freaks out, and when another girl starts yapping on and on about falling down stairs, he freaks out and leaves the party, ending up in a garden area next to a fountain. The girl follows and while out there he admits to killing his mother. Now this is a point that confused me a bit. He either killed her beacuse she was trying to have a sexual relationship with him, or because he was gay. I think it was because she discovered pictures in his room and found out that he was gay, but that’s only an assumption on my part since I didn’t quite get what the issue was. Anyway, whatever it was he got sick of it and pushed her down the stairs. He confesses that he did it to the girl, and she freaks. To keep his secret, he strangles her and drowns her in the pond. All the people from the party come running out to see what’s going on and the girl is with them. He looks down and it was actually his sister that he ended up drowning.

This film was extremely well made and had an awesome look to it. Everything about it was great from the acting to the sound to the camera work and especially the editing which moved the film along at a perfect pace. While the story was a bit confusing on that one point, it didn’t really matter. This was just a great film, though a bit light on the horror…as in…none at all. He killed his sister but you could see that in any common murder mystery, so I’m not really sure this one belonged in a horror compilation, but it’s still a great film nonetheless.

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Alone: A frightened girl is left alone in her sorority house for the weekend. She has paranoia problems to begin with, but when a girl a few houses down has her throat cut by a murderer, she freaks. A cop comes to the house and tries to convince her to go with him down to the station for her own protection until they catch the killer, but she refuses to go. He makes her promise to not let anyone in and she agrees, but stupidly lets her soroity sister’s boyfriend in later on because he said he wanted to stay with her and protect her. Obviously, that was a big mistake.

This film was really well made and the acting was great. It even had an ending with the boyfriend and the cop struggling on the floor and her standing there with a knife having to decide who the real killer was. The whole story was well written and well thought out, although some of the dialogue did sound a bit unnatural at times and the ending was pretty obvious, this really was a great film overall.

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Dead to the World: A guy is accused of being a serial rapist and murderer. He’s being interviewed by a cop and interspersed with the interview scenes are scenes of the guy committing several of the crimes. He’s a law student and using his legal skills to avoid being nailed by the cop in the interview.

This film has a weird aspect ratio. It looks like when you take a full screen movie and make it widescreen. It gets squished vertically and stretched horizontally. The acting in this one ranged from poor to good. It’s not a horrible film, but I did find it rather pointless, especially since it had no real conclusion to the story, the cop and the guy in the interview had no real resolution, and the film just ended with some titles about how many people Ted Bundy had killed and some other info about him and how serial killers are just seemingly normal people and can be anyone around you. If you skipped over this one, you wouldn’t be missing much. It wasn’t bad, but nothing you’d go out of your way to see.

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Mental Distortion: This film is about a guy who had sex with his wife. Nothing special about that, but add in a killer who cold cocks him and leaves her dead in the bathtub, and now we’re gettn’ somewhere. He wakes up and finds her in the bathtub and tries to perform CPR, but it’s too late. She’s already dead. Later on he meets up with a girl he used to know from school and they get together, eventually leading to a night of passion. Then the movie ends with him going in the bathroom, the lights in there flickering, and her following him in there.

This film was pretty well made and the acting was good, but the story was completely pointless and had an ending that left you thinking like, "What? Is that it?" It was a very non-ending. Kinda like going out with a girl, getting to third base, and then getting tagged out (i.e. slapped upside the head) just as you reach home. You go home with a nasty case of blue balls and feeling like the whole date was pointless because it didn’t reach a climax. Well this was the same thing, only without the blue balls. There really wasn’t any climax here, which moved the film very quickly from the pretty cool category into the pretty pointless category. It was a huge mistake, in my opinion, to end the film this way. A real ending would have made the whole thing worthwhile. Technically the film was good though. It had a nice look to it, the editing moved it along nicely, the sound was ok, and generally it was quite well made. It was just the story that could have used a bit more work since nothing at all was really explained. I did find one thing funny though. When he took his naked wife out of the tub and performed CPR, I was thinking to myself, "Damn she has perky nipples for someone who’s dead." Must have been cold in there. Either that, or being dead is a lot more exciting than I thought it was.

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Disconnected: A guy and his wife are kidnapped, taken to this empty loft type room where his wife is tortured in a separate area and he’s strapped to a chair and systematically tortured and disfigured, having his fingers cut off, a hole drilled in his foot, his leg broken, etc… Finally he begs the guy to tell him why he’s doing it. That leads to a surprise ending that I won’t reveal here. You have to see it.

This film was just brutal. I mean really brutal. It was shot in black and white and had an awesome look to it. The acting was great and the torture and dismemberment scenes were extremely well done. The highlight of this film though is the ending, which is absolutely hilarious!!! It’s definitely a must see. You’re gonna die when you see the ending. It’s awesome! This was just a great, great film.

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The Demon: A religious, nerdy looking guy picks up a girl hitchhiking and they end up at a hotel together. He starts having all kinds of delusions about this demon being after him, and ends up strangling the girl, thinking she’s the demon in disguise. He ends up in a straight jacket in an insane asylum.

This particular film was boring, pointless, jumped around way too much and made very little sense. It had a nice look to it, and the acting was mostly good, but that’s about all I can say. It all seemed very pointless to me. There was only minimal talking in it, so there wasn’t really any dialogue there to develop the story. Another one that can be skipped.

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Echoes: A guy wakes up and finds himself strapped to a bed with all kinds of nightmarish imagery around him, like he’s in some kind of a hospital in hell. At one point when a nurse who looks more like a corpse starts dumping grubs in his mouth, he becomes conscious of his real surroundings. He’s actually strapped to a bed in a mental hospital.

This film had an extremely nice look and really fantastic set design including a lot of awesome props. It was well shot, edited and acted and really had a super creepy and nightmarish feel to it. It’s definitely one you want to see. This was a very impressive film. I think this one could actually be turned into a feature length film with some further development. You could do some really cool stuff with the talent and material involved here.

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Retina: Rachel Grub, Heather Amos and Josh LeSuer, who all also appeared in the film Group Home, star in this film that I have to admit left me absolutely baffled. The acting in this film was great, the look of this film was great, but I just simply don’t know what the hell it was about or what was going on. I can tell you this though. It’s definitely not something you’d want to watch if you’ve been dropping acid. You’d end up clawing your own face off. This film is a serious trip visually, but the story made no sense to me whatsoever. The best way I can describe this film is to imagine having a really intense nightmare with lots of dark imagery that leaves you confused and then finally waking up feeling all stressed out. Other than that, I don’t know what to tell you on this one. It’s definitely worth watching though.

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I’ve seen many different compilations of shorts, and they all have one thing in common. They have great films mixed in with not so great films. This one is no exception. The question always boils down to, does the good outweigh the bad? In this case, I’d say for the most part it does, but it’s Disconnected and Echoes that really make this disc worth having. Both of those films are just absolutely phenomenal.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its website at http://www.thehorrorvault.net.