OUT 8 september CERT 15 / 91 mins
Director Dan Bush cast James Franco, Taryn Manning, Francesca Eastwood, Scott Haze
plot Leah (Eastwood) and Vee (Manning) try to help their brother Michael (Haze) out of debt by taking part in a robbery. A heist turns into a siege and bank employee Ed Maas (Franco) tells the gang the real money is in a seemingly disused, possibly haunted bank vault.
IT USED TO be a movie convention that supernatural horror films would transform into crime movies in the final reel. As in Scooby-doo,
Where Are You!, any ghosts, monsters or zombies would turn out to be gangsters or smugglers in disguise and all the spooky stuff written off as trickery. That sub-genre has faded, but its mirror image has been surprisingly busy since From
Dusk Till Dawn as crime movies turn into horror films, with hard-boiled crooks and cops going about their everyday business of busting bad guys only to find that they’re up against something supernatural they didn’t prepare for.
The Vault is a well-made, well-written and well-acted variation on this theme, but too timid to go all-out weird. The vault here is merely plagued by a masked ghost from an earlier heist rather than, say, the site where the Devil stores the souls he’s bargained for, or the Hellmouth that crashed the global economy.
The set-up is nicely handled, as a jittery gang — three squabbling siblings trying to pay off the Mob, a professional safecracker and a hulking psycho — execute the beginnings of a well-made plan. Sensible-looking Leah (Eastwood, the daughter of Frances Fisher and Clint Eastwood) and aggressive Vee (Manning, from Orange Is The
New Black) get into the bank posing as a smart job applicant and an annoying customer, then the rest of the crooks show up in fake fire department uniforms when diversionary bombs go off on the block. Someone soon insists nobody is going to get hurt, so you know there’ll be a body count — but the hostages may not be the ones most in danger.
Matching the pattern of Dog Day Afternoon, the plan goes south. The authorities receive a phone message about the robbery nobody inside the bank could have made and a siege develops, with Detective Iger (Clifton Collins Jr.) lurking outside trying to establish a line of communication. There turns out to be little cash stored in the upstairs safe, so helpful whitecollar worker Ed (Franco, with a plot-relevant moustache) reveals that a fortune is stashed in the antique vault all the bank employees avoid. Soon, a masked psycho ghost is in the house, and the casualties start piling up. Tommy James And The Shondells’ Crimson And Clover plays eerily whenever a radio is turned on. And the bank security footage shows a different reality to what’s happening.
Director Dan Bush, who co-wrote with Conal Byrne, was one of the collective who made the 2007 outbreak apocalypse picture The
Signal. This is a more straight-up genre piece, deploying decent-enough suspense and shock mechanisms while hardly pushing the boat out. Its strongest suit is the teaming of cool Eastwood and live-wire Manning as contrasting criminal sisters, though they’re so interestingly unpredictable the ghost killer sometimes seems superfluous.
Verdict though it could do with being weirder and wilder, this high-concept mash-up — what if crooks robbed a haunted bank? — features fine work from a brace of rising stars.
Michael Myers, James Franco, moustache.