Bank Robbers Find Evil in “The Vault” review!


Leah and Vee, Two estranged sisters, their knee deep in debt brother, Michael, and a couple of money hungry hired hands take siege of an old bank to score a half a million dollar payday. With hostages bagged and tagged, security cameras disabled, and no outside communication to the police transmitted, the situation and plan seems to be going smoothly, but when the actual pay load is lighter than expected, desperation takes over and panic overwhelms when the prospect of load sharks will seek to take more than just fingers for payment. A more than helpful assistant bank manager is eager and willing to share information about how to obtain the 6 million dollars in an archaic vault beneath the upper levels just as long as nobody gets hurt, but the heist’s meddling into the basement’s vault stirs a malevolent evil force and their fates will be sealed inside an unsafe repository.

The 2007 “The Signal” director, Dan Bush, directs and co-writes 2017’s “The Vault,” a supernatural thriller co-written by “The Reconstruction of William Zero” scriber Conal Byrne. Tense and polished, “The Vault” has the makings of a velvety heist film that holds up formidably strong, setting up a hostage situation after a well-executed pilferage involving zesty characters with dire complexities that drive them to villainy. The opening credits provide glimpses into the duration along with associative theme, much along the same lines as Victor Salva’s “Jeepers Creepers” that scores the Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer’s jazzy “Jeepers Creepers” track from 1938 that inspired fear before the arrival of The Creeper. “The Vault” uses a song 30-years junior to “Jeepers Creepers” with Tommy James and the Shondells’s psychedelic pop track, “Crimson and Clover.”

The sisters could be exemplary examples of fire and ice; Vee’s hotheaded obstinacy and violent tendencies makes her a volatile wildcard whereas Leah’s calm, cool, and calculating measures maintain their heist from derailing into violent panic. Their estrangement boils from a tiff about Leah’s loyalty to her family as Vee burgeoningly bludgeons Leah and her their brother, Michael, that Leah will skate soon after their escape, leaving the family one-third complete yet again, but Leah being involved in this heist, coming to her brother’s aid from her possible story bred locale of South America, or wherever she might have been, has Michael questioning Vee’s steadfast position. “Orange is the New Black’s” Taryn Manning is a natural born roughneck on screen and Vee is no stretch from her Pennsatucky character on the Netflix hit comedy-drama. Manning opposites Clint Eastwood’s piercing round-eyed daughter, Francesca Eastwood, whose a complete badass in her own rite. The two actresses might be short in stature, but Manning and Eastwood effectively symbolize large personalities in “The Vault” to the point where no other character can come close to competing with them, not even James Franco as an assistant bank manager with an all-too-happy to help personality. Franco, who sports a sweet stash and wavy dark hair, provides a steeliness shroud around his character, whose credited as Ed Mass in the credits, but never specially mentioned by name. Mass is a pivotal character to the story and, if analyzed thoroughly, can be unsurprisingly figured out with relative ease, but the who, what, and why are vital questions that go unfortunately unanswered. Scott Haze rounds out the four main roles with Michael, the gentle brother to Vee and Leah whose deep in debt with collectors who have already diced off one of his fingers. Haze, who has worked alongside “127 Hours’” star in a number of films such as “The Institute,” “Future World,” and “In Dubious Battle” to name a few, doesn’t have much interaction with Franco, but is more a satellite in his own regard becoming the protector of his two more than capable sisters. Supporting cast includes Q’orianka Kilcher as lead teller, “Day of the Dead: Bloodline’s” Jeff Gum as bank officer, the late Keith Loneker as a shotgun toting cohort, Michael Milford as the safe cracker, and “Traffic’s” Clifton Collins Jr. as the shady detective Iger.

Initially, Dan Bush played his cards right setting up the pre-heist all the way through the locking down the bank and all bank employees and customers are bound and gagged. Conal Byrne’s characters spill enough backstory to water our mouths, eager to know more about the angst between the two sisters, the lopped off finger of their brother Michael, and how the turmoil between the robbers is spurred and transitioned to resolution with the introduction of the helpful assistant bank manager and his helpful information about more money in a dank, dark basement vault. At this point, the salivation is intense when only tidbits of bank’s frightening phantasms are given that place the ball on the tee, stomach high, ready to knock the living daylights out our hapless and woebegone thieves, but the surefire, can’t miss swing tops the ball that scuttles in and out of bounds. The second and third acts are a completely clunky with abrupt and disjointed storytelling involving a copout exposition on the bank’s wretched backstory that ultimately leaves that important Ed Mass character hanging out in the pointless wind. Near the tail end, the film just didn’t feel complete, bordering dangerously in choppy filmmaking waters without a woolly and unexplored antagonist at the helm and Bush can’t quite pull all the end strings together to tightly knit a harrowing climax, vacating character substance with disingenuous plot twists.

MVDVisual and FilmRise introduce “The Vault” for the first time on a full HD Blu-ray home video. The widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, presentation is a great digital asset that favors a night and day conception. Ground level on the bank is pure daylight or exact lighting that vibrant and clear, not a lot of noise, and no observation of aliasing. In the basement, the abyss like somber darkness doesn’t fade away any details, but in all fairness, the haunting figures in the dark are nearly saturated with creeping ill-lit blackness. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 and stereo 2.0 audio tracks evenly set the dialogue and ambient tracks with diverse depth, but with the 5.1 surround sound and basement dwelling apparitions that indirectly cause explosions, the range didn’t embark through the varying to and fro levels appropriately and, thus, impresses a lackluster lasting impact. FilmRise has been quite a bust for bonus content lately and “The Vault” is no different with only the theatrical trailer attached. “The Vault” has sturdy initial framework of agitated vehement characters and a clouded venomous basement, teasing the prospect of two powerful rams running to tangle horns, but, without warning, the narrative unfairly falls to pieces as if one of the male sheep decided to swerve last minute before the game of chicken came to a crash and morbid curiosity becomes sorely deprived of cinematic lethal misgivings.

Buy “The Vault” on Amazon.com

The Myth. The Legend. The Evil…. “Leatherface” review!


Texas 1955 – the pride of the Sawyer family was not their tattered farm, but a bloodline taste for something else – callous murder and a penchant for human flesh. Verna Sawyer sought to instill that pride into her children, especially her youngest, Jed, but when Hal Hartman, hard nose local Sheriff, learns that his daughter becomes victim of the Sawyer’s suspect nefarious carnage, he executes the law to his advantage, deeming the Sawyer house unfit for children and removes Jed from his labeled degenerate mother Verna. Ten years later, a group of teenage patients escape a mental hospital, kidnap a young nurse, and reek bloody havoc in their voyage to Mexico in an attempt to elude the very same lawman who put them away, but this time, Hartman isn’t adhering to the law, straying off his moral compass to pursue a vengeance mission against unprincipled youth that’s personally driven by Jed and the Sawyer family. Once the embattled Hartman catches up with his prey, a series of gruesome events lead to the creation and the construction of one of the most notorious killers Texas will ever see.

I love a good origin story. There’s something to be said about understanding the commencement of character, to be in the shoes of a long running icon, and to be able to sympathize with their story no matter how atrocious. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s 2017 “Leatherface” does just that with the film’s own origin enlightenment on how the chainsaw wielding, human skin mask wearing psychopath came to fruition inside a home of unspeakable brutality and influenced externally by a unforgiving society. From a script penned by Seth M. Sherwood, “Leatherface,” serving as a direct prequel to Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” briefly touches upon the preteen years to setup the catalytic road trip from hell, birthing a monster in a time of adolescence and if part of a legacy spanning over forty decades inspired by Ed Gein, the real life human skin wearing and notorious serial killer, then you damn well know “Leatherface” has to be genetically predisposed to be ultra-violent drenched in blood splatter. The French filmmaking duo, who’ve helmed 2007’s “Inside” and had directed the “Xylophone” segment in “The ABCs of Death 2,” nail the dark and gritty tone that not only breathes a gassy and exhaust fumed life into a massive flesh-ripping chainsaw, but also inflicts heartlessness across the story board into a heartfelt homage to the characters and to the story fathered by Kim Henkel and the late Tobe Hooper, both of whom were attached as executive producers.

Over the years, many actors have held the mammoth power-drive cutting tool in their hand that’s ready to chip away at flesh such as Andrew Bryniarski (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 2003 remake), Bill Johnson (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”) and, most famously, Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface. However, I’m not going to divulge who the pubescent Leatherface is in the story because the film plays out as a who out of the group of degenerate teens is the son of Verna Sawyer, even though you can easily obtain the information in a simple click and search on Google. Instead, Sam Strike, James Bloor, and Sam Coleman portray the three escapees who are accompanied by an equally insane sociopath in Jessica Madsen and an eagerly novice kidnapped nurse by Vanessa Grasse. Amongst a sea of English actors are a pair of vets to shepherd the young cast and be the embattled bookends to the dawn of an icon. Lili Taylor (“The Haunting”) and Stephen Dorff (“Blade”) face off as Leatherface’s mother, Verna Sawyer, who butts horns with a longstanding sheriff, Hal Hartman, with a steadfast vendetta against the Sawyer family. Christopher Adamson (“Razor Blade Smile”), Nathan Cooper (“Day of the Dead: Bloodline”), and Finn Jones (“Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines”) co-star.

Usually with a pair of directors, two different styles spawn to an end result. With Bustillo and Maury, styles merge into a seamless effort of elegant wonders. Each shot emerges a purpose to the story whether it’s painting an image of the Sawyer’s death house to pulling a one-eighty with characters, the filmmakers ability to combine each element into a single story, that has such a close knit cult following, and still manage to cinematically pull off the atmosphere, the grit, and the gory carnage of a Texas Chain Saw Massacre film is impressive. Cinematographer Antoine Sainer, whose worked previously with the directing duo on the “The ABCs of Death 2’s” segment “X,” has the ever so poised eye that’s able to well-round and solidify Leatherface’s terror tenor, particular exampled in a foot chase scene through a moonlit forest, smoke bellowing out of a growling chainsaw, and a tattered young girl bawling, screaming, and fleeing for her life from a deranged masked killer whose huffing, snarling, and growling during the pursuit.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment presents the Millennium Films produced “Leatherface” onto Blu-ray + Ultra-violet combo disc, a MPEG-4 AVC encoded disc with a 1080p resolution and presented in a widescreen, 2.38:1, aspect ratio that displays the Bulgaria landscape in a yellowish-brown, Texas-like backdrop. Details are noticeably fine that exquisitely reveal the death and destruction of the Sawyers and those who unfortunately surround the family. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track evenly distributes and consistently a range of engrossing fidelity, ambient, and dialogue layers. Bonus material includes a play feature with an alternate ending that’s less superior in contrast to the final product, deleted scenes, and a behind-the-scenes making of that includes brief interviews with directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, actors Sam Strike, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, and others, and goes behind the scenes in creating the tone and style of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” while implementing their own vision. “Leatherface” forces the unsavory and unpleasant down the throats of TCM fans, jamming an attempt to exposition a futile chance to a destined maniac of cannibalistic proportions and manages to mix up the Tobe Hooper’s weathered franchise with a barbaric bruiser of a tale.

“Leatherface” on Blu-ray! Buy it here, today!