Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Vault Of Horror

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. 


The Film Connoisseur said...

I was a bit dissapointed with this one, mainly because the first film (Tales from the Crypt) was so much better! This one seemed to lessen the horror factor considerably, I mean, thats what I loved about the first one, it was a straight forward horror anthology, this one, not so much. But still, I had fun with this one.

Your right about Asylum being one of their better ones, but I have to see And Now..The Screaming Starts which is supposed to be the best one.

A hero never dies said...

This was the first Amicus anthology I saw as a kid, it scared me plenty back then! While the scares don't old up now, it's still a very enjoyable film and something I could watch anytime.

Anonymous said...

Amicus has three syllables. Am-i-cus.

Just sayin'.

J.D. said...

This one was pretty good but I'm with The Film Connoisseur on this one with TALES FROM THE CRYPT being better. I actually like another Amicus anthology film, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD. It's got both Christopher Lee AND Peter Cushing. Worth checking out.

Bryce Wilson said...

@TFC: True, but for some reason I tend to go easy on Horror Anthology films. Even the bad ones I tend to enjoy.

@Ahnd: Yeah it's just something about the genre.

@ Anon: Ah ha yes...

@ RH: I really need to see that one.