★ out of ★★★★★
Really? The most boring jump scare ever?
Good premise plus good actor does not equate to good movie. To wit, The Vault. This 2017 pic has a great premise. A group of (maybe white supremacist nazis) decide to rob an ol’-timey downtown bank. There’s only one problem…well there’s tons…the bank is haunted! I’m always up a for a good “…this place is haunted and you shouldn’t be here” flick, but at some point the reason why the place is haunted and the impending doom, being brought to those who dare enter the premises, needs to come together in symmetrical harmony. Turns out banks aren’t really that scary and good looking ne’er-do-well actors aren’t either.
The film begins with a little (read: very little) switcheroo where the bank robbers start a fire to distract from their nasty escapades. Problem one: the fire is just a mere block away and the bank patrons and employees don’t seem to be terribly concerned with the fact that there’s a building on fire down the street — from their rickety old bank. The robbery ensues and a meek and unsuspecting bank employee played by Jame Franco instructs the robbers that the real money is in the vault. Millions in fact! The greedy nazis jump on it hook line and sinker. Straight to the haunted vault. Problem two: vaults aren’t scary.
The greedy nazis vaguely talk about their reasons for the bank robbery and then commence with rather formulaic in-fighting. Of course they split in to groups and of course the groups are fractured and uncertain about themselves. The factions begin to encounter spooks and spectres and further turn on each other. None of the characters are terribly well developed, and again, the rationale for the robbery is just not explained. But what is explained is the reason for the ghouls. Problem three: way too much of the wrong exposition. Using a super-clumsy flashback device the pic explains that a prior psycho-bank robber robbed this very bank in 1982. He did all sorts of nasty business to the bank employees and the patrons and voila’ the bank is haunted.
After a quick slide downhill the psycho-bank robber ghoul terrorizes everyone, but weirdly, not the viewing audience. Lots of pedestrian gore is brought to the robbers in sort of cautionary tale. Don’t rob banks. It’s bad for your health. Problem four: the nazi bank robbers. Are they really nazis? Are they robbing the bank to feed their nazi cause? Are they related? Nazi inbreeding? All these questions and more just linger unexplained. Worse yet, these nazi bank robbers, save for the chubby nazi bank robber, are all really pretty. Yep, pretty. Not what you’re really after from meth-addled nazi bank robbers. This kind of casting requires a little dirt and some uneven scowls.
The film looks OK and sounds OK, but there’s not really any scares. Even the very end of the film, which I won’t spoil, contains one of the least frightening jump scares, well, maybe of all time. I do, really do, like when films do a good job of making the audience work for the story, or even require them to dissect the story in their heads, but in the case of The Vault, they really explained the wrong stuff.