It makes sense that Shout Factory would package “Tales from the Crypt” with “Vault of Horror” since both horror films are essentially a part of the same universe, and are adapted from the genius EC Comics brand. In “Vault of Horror” you can even see one of the characters sit beside a stack of EC Comics while turning to continue reading a “Tales from the Crypt” novel. It’s a good thing too since both films are stellar horror anthologies, practicing the tradition of EC Comics’ storytelling formula that involves revenge, irony, plot twists, and turning the tables on characters at every turn. If you can spare the time, these films deserve to be viewed as a double bill, because it’s a master class of storytelling and creeps.
In “Tales from the Crypt,” five strangers are on a tour through old catacombs and are accidentally separated from the group. Attempting to find their way back, they end up in a crypt with a mysterious Keeper who explains how each of them died. “And All Through the House” is a great opening segment (that would later be remade in to an equally great episode for the contemporary HBO series) starring a young beautiful Joan Collins who murders her husband on Christmas Eve for his Insurance plan. She finds concealing the crime even more difficult as she has to do battle with an escaped serial killer dressed as Santa Claus who is trying to break in to the house. “Reflection of Death” is a weird and unique tale about endless fate when a man abandons his family for his young lover.
When they’re involved in a car accident, the man awakens from the wreck to find his girlfriend. “Poetic Justic” stars Peter Cushing as a widow and toy maker who becomes the victim of his neighbors’ demented torture when they decide they want him out of the neighborhood and plan to buy his valuable home. Simultaneously very sad and very creepy, this segment is a classic tale of comeuppance with a gruesome final scene. “Wish You Were Here” is a gruesome iteration on the classic “Monkey’s Paw” urban legend. A financially distraught repairman and his wife discover an ancient statue that grants them three wishes. When his wife wishes for a lot of money, the pair learn the hard way to always be careful what you wish for.
While I’ve seen a ton of takes on the Monkey’s Paw, the ending to this segment has to be seen to be believed. Finally “Blind Alleys” is a classic tale of evil getting their just desserts as a retired general is made the director of a home for the blind. When he begins mistreating the residents by starving them and reducing heat while he lives in luxury, the residents decide to wreak revenge on him when one of their closest friends dies in his care. “Blind Alleys” is a dark and twisted revenge story with a wonderful climax. It also features a great performance by Patrick Magee who is both intense and sad. “Tales from the Crypt” is a dark and creepy anthology horror film that obviously has traces of what the hit HBO series in the eighties would eventually copy and twist a bit. While the movie itself isn’t as darkly funny or twisted as the HBO show, it is as creepy and often times you can see how the show adopted a lot of its biting irony and plot twists.
“Vault of Horror” takes further from the EC Comics adapting some of their best stories in to an all around stellar horror movie. Five men enter an elevator and accidentally go to the basement where they find a table awaiting them. Awaiting help to get back on the elevator, they decide to wait and tell one another about peculiar dreams they’ve had. Among the tales is “Midnight Mess,” where a man who tracks down his long lost sister in hopes of stealing her inheritance. When he seeks to murder her to claim it, he happens upon a weird town she’s now living in. “The Neat Job” involves an obsessively neat man who finds out his new trophy wife isn’t the domestic pro he thought she’d be. Eventually things go awry when he drives her mad over his intense demands for neatness. “This Trick’ll Kill You” involves slimy magician Sebastian and his wife who travel to India to steal tricks from street side gurus and debunk their illusions.
When he discovers an amazing trick involving a snake like rope, he’ll do anything to steal it. Even murder. “Bargain in Death” is a darkly funny tale of a man who is buried alive for the sake of an insurance scam. When he’s double crossed by his partner in crime, he becomes the unsuspecting victim of two grave robbing medical students. Briskly paced and surprisingly funny, I laughed through this one more than I thought I would. The final tale “Drawn and Quartered” finds an exploited artist get his revenge on his three old friends when he turns to voodoo to help him inject life in everything he draws. “Vault of Horror” is a mind fuck of an anthology filled with twist after twist and some great surprises that might just sneak up on you.
I can safely say there wasn’t a single segment that brought down the pacing or momentum, and it’ll satiate your EC appetite without fail. The double feature comes with the original theatrical trailer for “Vault of Horror” including the alternate title which was “Tales from the Crypt II.” There are two cuts of “Vault of Horror” included: the theatrical cut and the Uncut Open Matte Version, with DTS 2.0 Mono Audio.