The troubled beauty of THE HORROR VAULT 3 is it’s like a group of prepubescent kids playing with a Ouija board; they don’t seem to truly understand the evils they’re toying with. Now if you’re stoned enough to enjoy some video potpourri, then this flick serves as cinematic junk food for any horror fan with a blood stained palette with the munchies. Just like porno, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve seen part 1 or 2 from the Horror Vault. This isn’t meant to strain your attention span, but rather massage it into a state of placation where you’re almost obliged to mutter, “That was ok, I guess”.
“The Horror Vault” is a series of short films gathered together into a feature length film, each pivoting on the nuances of the writers and directers assembled. There’s no host or other segments to string the stories together, which would have lent to the nostalgia of films like CREEPSHOW that I’m sure this format was meant to emulate. Instead it’s a non-sequitur of genres only bumpered by title, shifting your attention from one stylized vignette to the next. This buffet of sub-genres is a diet of early 90s horror meant to be served straight to video. If that’s what you’re looking for to feed your face then open your eye holes and dig in.
The film starts off with “A Christmas Haunting” written and directed by Kim Sønderholm, which sets the tone of the rest of your adventures as your trip through the Vault. A man supposedly separated from his family come Christmas settles into his buddy’s flat to wait out the Holidays until he can try to reconcile with his estranged wife. Soon odd things begin to happen, like the plumbing going on by itself and other oddities particularly manifested in the appearance of dead naked women. It’s boobs, blood, and violence against women all to ring in the Yuletide cheer. It’s got an odd blend of practical effects and CGI, and yet the effective underscore keeps you wondering what’s the point of it all.
“Zombie Office” is a sincere effort to crossbreed SHAUN OF THE DEAD and OFFICE SPACE, but as alluring as that sounds, it’s about as fruitful as watching animal husbandry in practice. Written and directed by Johan A. Krueger, the cubicles are under new management and they’ve come done up in black vinyl clothes and a few new ideas on effective corporate strategy. Jacob is pitted against a new boss who has turned the office pool into literal mindless drones, zombies addicted to coffee and chained to their desks. Throw them a Temp to feed on now and again and there’s no real worries to threaten productivity. That is until Jacob won’t go along with assimilation and fights back. My favorite sequence of gore is when a zombie is beaten with a sink faucet. Yup, you read that right. Swish that one around your brain piece for a minute and let’s proceed.
Following that comes “Undone” from David C. Hayes, Kevin Moyers, and John Scott Mills. Here a sad sap named Travis has been drowning the sorrows of his murdered daughter at the hands of the Lollipop Killer. Sputtering his tale over crying into his beer, he is granted his wish by a guard transporting the prisoner responsible for his torment. That wish; to inflict the pain he feels to the man that took his little girl away. Chained in a garage, the story is meant to be a vicarious epilogue of a pedophile finally getting the comeuppance that the justice system should be enforcing. It’s disturbing to feel that you should be rooting for the HOSTEL inspired gore depicted, but really that’s the only point to this part of the saga. There’s no understanding the enjoyment of those evil enough to harm children, and here I question the purpose of enjoying this sub-genre of horror with the same infliction to the soul. This story particularly stands out due to its chilling subject matter and graphic content, but the benefit of proper actors could have pushed this into a story strong enough for a stand alone story line.
Next up, “Unchangeable” from James Barclay tells a somewhat convoluted story of a man dealing with the murder of his wife by a homeless man that they accidentally hit with their car. He hires a private investigator to track down this vagrant, but then things turn murky. The revenge we hope to witness is stolen away by the possibility that this crime may be imaginary, that it’s all the result of a fractured psyche. The ending doesn’t offer much in the way of explanation, rendering this segment one of the weakest to contend with in the myriad of shorts.
Wrapping it all up is “The Psychomanteum” from David Holt. Admirably it’s the only black and white sequence featured in this anthology. It’s all faux Gothic. Envision Marilyn Manson on public access or Depeche Mode trying to tell a ghost story. This is what happens when you skim the Cliff notes of Poe. Here a dead ringer for Avril Lavigne has gone mental, haunted by the voices of “the Network”, berated by her parents and a psychiatrist that does little to help the agony of a brain turned inward. This part of the flick will definitely offer a harsh comedown from those still afflicted to witness the end credits. It’s like expressionism wrapped around Hammer horror and stuffed into a McDonald’s wrapper. It’s experimental and at times effective, though any sense of a narrative is abandoned for the sake of style over substance.
Ultimately, THE HORROR VAULT 3 is meant to be a calling card, a reason to cultivate and showcase emerging talent long forgotten to Hollywood for the sake of the safety offered by remaking cult classics. These filmmakers have taken to grouping themselves as an asset, marketing their combined talents like a cattle call that comes with a remote control. There’s not much to remember, nor to be forgotten. This plays like film students finally deserving that A+ on their thesis project rather than a formidable run atthe current state of horror. The sake of originality is meant to be a beacon to those looking for something different, though the pool of resources to draw from is as limited as the bank account that was used to fiance their endeavors. It’s low budget horror that almost feels like it should be marketed in battered clam-shell cassette case. It doesn’t belong in the studio system, and at times that’s a reason to root for these indie filmmakers. But like any circle you run in, be weary of the company you keep.