The Vault (2000) - A teacher takes a group of detention serving students to an abandon high school to document its history before it is torn down. The story is that the school was originally used as a depot for slave being brought into the country. Horrible treatment of the slaved marked this period of the building. Then after the civil war it was converted into a school for former slaves to teach them to read. After this the building became part of the school system until age finally made it necessary to close it down. So with only a few days before demolition a teacher Mr. B. (Ted Lyde) brings Kyle (Michael Cory Davis), Desaray (Shani Pride), Willy (Austin Priester) and Zipper (Kyle Walker) to the building.
After seeing a mural on the wall with nondescript figures they are warned by a security guard, "I don't think having these kids in here is a good idea." What? High school age kids wandering around a dilapidated building, what could go wrong? On top of this Desaray is having a bad feeling about being there. Several scenes allow the audience to get to know the kids. Kyle tough on the outside but struggling to keep himself together dispite his drug using parents. Desaray the pretty girl who can't see past peoples exteriors. Willy the jock everyone loves and Zipper the nerd who can't stop himself from putting his foot in his mouth. Then there is Mr. B. who has recently lost his wife and surprisingly came to the school to walk down memory lane. The school is where he graduated high school and met his wife. None of the characters get much more developed than that but honestly Kyle seemed to draw the most emotional connection of the kids.
When things get weird it happens a little at first before going full tilt. When Mr. B. is talking to the security guard there is this point where he recognizes him as a janitor during the time he was a student at the school. He also has not aged a day, I wonder why that is? Later Desaray and Willie are walking down this nicely (cheaply) lit corridor of red and blue light, they don't notice that each door they pass closes. Finally after being warned not to go in the cellar, the two are in the cellar and find the titular door. Naturally Willy just has to know what is in that locked door but there is no key. Lucky for the story that Desaray is possessed by some sounds in her headphones and punches a wall revealing a key...to the lock...to the vault...of course.
When the lock is off a horrible banging on the door starts up and then breaks out, Willy and Des see inside the room are shackles on the walls. You see in the past slaves were kept in these rooms. In fact there is at a later time a story shared that a witchdoctor was put into one of the rooms back in slave days but her killed the other five slaves in the room as part of a ritual of power, the ritual was incomplete though and his soul was trapped in the room. The kids have now released it and he will try to complete the spell by killing a new six people.
The first is the van driver who did not even come in the building. The kids do notice though that his face is now on the mural they saw earlier. In fact each of the group that is killed appears in the painting, so the kids must try to find a way to get the spirit back in the room and lock it before they are all killed. This is not a horrible plot. It is a shame that the budget for this film was so small because I think the idea can work. There are some very nice CGI and practical effects including a pipe through a chest, a head cut in half, and some glowing red eyes. The pace picks up as the film goes on but the early scenes really dragged this film down with its less than effective character development. The negative of the are a drawback but I think director James Black did a decent job on this film not really going to recommend it because the production value is not up to par, the characters are too cardboard and there is way too much just following people as they walk around to make the compelling story compelling enough.
Rating (4.2) 5.0 and up are recommended.