The Vault is easily the most suspense filled series yet highlighted on #WebSeriesWednesday – and it manages to do that without every really putting anyone’s life in serious danger – so far.
‘The Vault’ takes place in my favorite time period – the near future. That’s the place that’s similar to today, but far enough away that the audience can buy into a few significant differences. ‘The Vault’ is really a take on unchecked reality television with an eye towards potential changes to come.
The series follows an ever growing cast of contestants on a new show at a struggling network. These contestants were pre-screened through a large casting search, with those chosen waking up blindfolded, and alone in a small white room with the instruction that they either all win, or they all lose. Each room is unique, and seemingly tailored to the individual occupying it. Henry, the show’s protagonist, awakens in a room with wall full of blue buttons and a cheap headset. He quickly learns that pushing a button will put him in voice contact with another contestant in another room. As the sole means of contact between contestants, Henry is constantly taxing his communication skills.
Different contestants occupy rooms with other important functions, such as Alexis in the padlocked vault room, Anne with a whiteboard, and Mark in the trash room – a thankless yet vital function. Henry quickly defines other rooms based on function in a quick, impersonal, yet practical manner.
Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the show are the characters and rooms whose functions are not obvious, or whose utility is not necessarily positive. Early on in the show we are introduced to a compassionate young woman whose room is filled with hundreds of goldfish in individual bowls, with not nearly enough food. There seems to be some connection between the fish, and the contestants. So is this a puzzle, a challenge, or a test? If it’s a test, is it a test to see if she chooses compassion and hope in the face of impossible odds, or a test to see if she can defy her nature and side with reason and the harsh reality of the situation?
Other interesting rooms include one with a wall full of clocks, all telling different times, a room with a map of the United States, a room with a mirror, a room with a throne & a man who believes he’s fit to sit upon it, and perhaps most ominously a room with a noose. With 150 rooms to cover it’s unlikely that ‘The Vault’ will ever be able to make use out of everything, but so far I’ve found the solutions to the puzzles to be intriguing, believable and fulfilling in a way that a show like ‘Lost’ was rarely capable of.
For a series that has yet to really put its characters in danger I was seriously impressed by the way the show was able to keep me at the edge of my seat. I think a lot of this can be chalked up to the way the show is directed and edited – bouncing between different rooms, and constantly revealing new pieces of the puzzle, leaving the audience guessing. J.J. Abrams could learn a thing or two from ‘The Vault.’ The other key has got to be ‘the score’ – known to the creators as ‘the throb’ it is a constant, deep brooding tone that lives in the background of every scene. It’s that type of sound that just makes you feel naturally uneasy, yet never takes over. Interestingly enough YouTube’s audio codecs had some issues with the sound at first, leading to it being reworked.
Besides the story itself the production concept is pretty brilliant. This is the ultimate in single location filming – since every character is locked in a white room, all the producers really need for production is access to an empty white room. This insanely efficient model for this style of story is what the creators believe ultimately drew Mark Cuban to the project. What other producers might be most interested in learning was that this show was financed entirely by HDNet. The creators simply emailed Cuban and asked him to check it out, and he responded almost instantly. What resulted was an experience the creators described as being like ‘Shark Tank’ which has ended up opening many doors for the production company, who are set to direct a feature film in January.
‘The Vault’ comes with my highest level of recommendation – professional through and through, created with business smarts and a script with actors to match. You can find the show at their official web site, http://www.thevaultshow.com/