I have a soft spot in my heart (and possibly my head) for Amicus. The other two syllable British Horror company that operated from the fifties through the seventies. Their brand of horror could basically be summed up as Hammer, but less classy. While Hammer’s gothic retellings of the old horror stories all had a kind of opulence to them, the Amicus films were endearingly ratty around the edges.
Amicus’s specialty was the horror anthology film. Five creaky horror tales for the price of one. The Horror Anthology is one of the most notoriously tough to do subgenres, given that even if you get one segment right you still get four chances to get it wrong, and the law of averages says at least one of the entries should end up a dud. Amicus was pretty good at them though. Sure the segments are not often scary, but they are at least usually entertaining.
Vault Of Horror was one of the two films that Amicus did with stories licensed from the old EC Comics line. It faithfully follows the EC formula of following rotten people doing rotten things before coming to rotten ends. The first story follows a brother who decides to murder his sister in order to receive his father’s inheritance and runs into some complications thanks to her neighbors. The second follows the most British man ever filmed (Seriously he looks like an out take from Monty Python’s “Upper Class Twit Of The Year” competition) as he has some trouble settling into his new marriage. The third follows a magician husband and wife team who travel India and go to unwise lengths to procure a new magic trick. The fourth a dud about a poorly thought out insurance scheme. The final follows an Artist (Dr. Who!) who gets revenge against those who wronged him with the power of voodoo. As you might have guessed things backfire quite spectacularly in all five cases.
It’s doubtful that all but the faintest of hearts will get any real fright from the segments contained within. The Amicus films rarely were scary (the lone exception being Asylum, probably the best of the Amicus anthologies, which had at least one genuinely spooky segment, involving brown butcher’s paper). But there is something here for the genre fan, the pleasures involved in a genuine B-movie. They may not scare in and of themselves, but like the horror comics that they’re based off of; they manage to capture quite well the pleasure of the horror story.