Monday, May 19, 2008

Review: The Horror Vault (2008) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Kim Sønderholm, Claire-Ross Brown, Elisa Richardson, Jonathon Trent, Heather Tom, Mandy Amano, Russ Diapor, Jerod Edington, Maja Mulack, Barbara Zatler, Anthony Wentzel, Adam Boone, Heather Amos, Rachel Grubb, Sean Seuthorp, Leslie Armstrong
Directed By: David Boone, Josh Card more
Written By: Russ Diapor, Drew English more
Released: 2008
Grade: B+

The Horror Vault is a series of 9 short films, all displaying chilling horrific events. They were done by independent filmmakers, many of which were extremely involved in creating this DVD. It is a very collaborative effort not just through the people involved but even through the themes. The films are bonded together not just by horror, but by the specific elements that make horrors occur, at times seemingly even beyond the control of the villain. The film begins with fake trailers as a tribute to the Grindhouse movies. They show an extremely cheesy take on this, but purposely do so.

The first film we see is called “When John Met Julia”. It is a spin on the classic tale of Romeo and Juliette starring Claire Ross-Brown and Kim Sønderholm, who also write and directed it. There is a stronger difference here besides the names of our characters from the original Romeo and Juliette. It is a modern day story that occurs when John (Sønderholm) is driving home one night and stops to help out Julia (Ross-Brown), a young hitchhiker who needs a ride. At first, Julia is disgusted by him and tries to get rid of him, convinced that he must be some sort of psychopath that can’t be trusted. It may just be that this is the other way around though. Julia thinks that John must have just been waiting around for a young girl alone that he can take advantage of. He tells her that he has a wife and children at home, but rather than listen Julia attacks him based on her assumptions of him. If her guilt doesn’t get to her, John surely will.

“When John Met Julia“, plays with the object of fate, love, and death. It could be perceived that fate brought their meeting together, since if they wouldn’t have been on that road at that very minute than none of this would have happened. It is clear that John loved another person and you get the feeling that Julia has been wronged by men in the past and has resulted in her mistrust and aggression, which led to death. The strongest basis for everything that happened though was revenge. Julia was getting revenge on John for other men who had let her down, while John was getting revenge for taking him away from those that he loved in his life. The next film is one of my favorites, “Delusion”. This is a black and white dramatic take on horror events with a 50’s style. It deals with suspense wonderfully as we are slowly given more information step by step. Luckily, the pacing with this is done just right so we are on the edge of our seat, guessing what has happened and what the characters are dealing with as well as how that will frame the story to affect what will happen next. At the same time, it remains to be interesting and intriguing every step of the way, never losing the audience. The story is centered around, Flynn (Trent) and his sister, June (Richardson). Flynn is back from college and is a popular guy admired by many. He isn’t as happy as you might think though, as June and his mother died not too long ago. Suspicions are put on him about this accident. The horrific truth lingers inside of Flynn for far too long. Once he can’t hold it in any longer, his aggravation of his secret may cause him to lash out on the last person that deserves it. “Delusion” has great character development, although at first there is a struggle to understand them, as the audience you are drawn to them anyway. This was a very stylistic piece by Mark Machillo that was eerie, mysterious, and very satisfying.

While many of the films in The Horror Vault remain to be more serious, it manages to have some fun too. One that really does this is “Disconnected”. Up until this point the films are much more about scary events and serious but deadly occurrences. While “Disconnected” follows this pattern somewhat, it is easily the most graphically brutal film of the collection. It takes place in a place of torture. The one committing this torture, says his girlfriend is late, giving us the idea that this girl had some sort of an affair and this torture is the revenge for it. Mr. Blakes (Boone), the primary culprit in the situation seems horrified and completely clueless at the same time. Numerous tools are used on his body in sick ways, such as having his finger nailed to the table, having his finger cut off with a wrench, and having a screw drilled in to his leg. This is all very heavy and there is amazement that he is still alive. When we find out why Mr. Blakes is really there it seems absurd. This is where it takes a comedic turn as we learn that it really didn’t have to happen the way it did. David Boone did a very good acting and directing this alongside of Josh Card. This sequence showed extreme torture, yet managed to show a lightness of the situation while showing how dire the consequences for this was.

Alongside of the films I have already mentioned “Mental Distortion, “Alone”, and “Dead to the World” were also very good. “Mental Distortion” wonderfully acted , written and directed by Kim Sønderholm as the first short he created, shows grief and a deep sense of haunting. It is about losing one love and feeling her presence around. This is a good representation of an eerier take on the experience of losing someone you loved and how hard that stage of moving on can be. “Alone”, was a slasher mystery type of film. One night a girl at a sorority house is murdered, making Ellen (Amano) fear that night, as she is the only one in her sorority house. It becomes a mystery in her attempt to figure out who the real killer is and if she will be safe enough to make it through the night alive. “Dead to the World” is a film that depicts real life serial killer, Ted Bundy, played by Russ Diapor, who also directed this segment. It is a mix of documentary style and narrative. We see Ted being questioned about a number of girls who he is suspected to have raped and murdered. He claims he had no part in this and Diapor actually makes Ted seem like an innocent man, who is just the wrong target. As the narrative takes play, we learn that this is anything but true. We found out that he learned that the girl he thought was his sister growing up was really his mother. When he is raping one girl, he mentions a resemblance to his cousin, showing his need for revenge against his family and women in general as he has feels abandoned by them. It was eventually proven that between the years 1974-1978 Ted Bundy had killed 30 women, and suspicions fear that this number may have ranged anywhere from 29 to 100. This shows a very cynical view of the world and exploration in to one man’s past becoming so deadly to the world he was living in.

Now as good as many of the films in The Horror Vault were, not all of them were as good as others. The three that didn’t quite seem to measure up were “Echoes”, “The Demon”, and “Retina”. The problem with “Echoes” and “The Demon” were quite similar, they just didn’t leave enough of an effect due to poor communication through them. “The Demon” is lacking in dialogue and “Echoes” doesn’t have much more. There is some action and more so in “Echoes”, so we do get a sense of what is going on. However, it seems like there just isn’t enough substance there to rely just on this images that attempt to make have chilling enough tone could outweigh everything else. Now, “Retina” wasn’t quite as bad since there was a little bit more of a set up. Rachel Grubb and Heather Amos did work well off each other in this black and white film that falls in to a cycle of killing. There is background information that we aren’t completely clued in on, making the sequence and its’ intended meaning a bit blurry. Although this meaning isn’t completely clear that is what it speaks of; what someone may do when they have a blurry perception. I think more could have been done with this, to bring this out to make it stronger. The Horror Vault is an overall haunting collection of horror films, showing style, character, and meaning. Together, they form a strong exploration of true horror; never knowing who may be capable of it, including yourself. The theme of not being able to see the truth and having your mind deluded until this takes over you. Even besides the killer in the scenes, other characters show a sense of being mistaken or deceived leading to deadly circumstances. The Horror Vault 2 and 3 are already in the making, so the fun doesn’t have to stop here. You can purchase the film at

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