Crucible of the Vampire – UK, 2017

‘An ancient blood curse finds a new beginning’

Crucible of the Vampire is a 2017 British supernatural horror feature film directed by Iain Ross-McNamee (I Saw Black CloudsThe Singing Bird Will Come) from a screenplay co-written with Darren Lake and John Wolskel (I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle). The movie stars Neil Morrissey, Katie Goldfinch, Brian Croucher, Florence Cady and Larry Rew.

Plot:

An ancient, cursed artefact draws a young, university researcher (Katie Goldfinch) to an old house which holds a dark and terrible secret. The young woman discovers the truth within the grim, foreboding walls of the house, but once in the clutches of its malevolent occupants, will she be able to leave with her life?

Oh yes, for a movie that belongs very much to the ‘sexy lady vampires running around an old British country house’ subgenre, Iain Ross-McNamee’s new horror film may be a bit of a disappointment to those of us raised on the likes of Jose Larraz’s Vampyres (1974) or good old Hammer Films’ Karnstein trilogy. Not that it’s without items of interest, but for the connoisseur of this particular kind of film it’s probably worth stating that up front.

The film starts with a black and white 17th century prologue. Ezekiel (Brian Croucher aka the second Travis) is sitting beside a cauldron and tootling on his flute when he is beset by Matthew Hopkins associate John Sterne and some of his men. Ezekiel’s accused of being a witch and is hanged, and the cauldron is split in half with the stroke of a big sword.

The present day. Half the cauldron is now in a museum and the other half has just been discovered in the basement of a Shropshire country house. Assistant curator Isabelle (Katie Goldfinch) is sent to assess the find and dig it out, which must be a bit of a first for her as her hands look as if they’re far more used to seeing a manicurist than scrabbling around in an archaeological dig.

The inhabitants of the mansion are eccentric to say the least. Before long Isabelle is experiencing weird hallucinations. The gardener (Neil Morrissey) has a story to tell her and there’s the increasing sense that Isabelle is being prepared for… something.

Crucible of the Vampire boasts a fantastic atmospheric location, some good, scary makeup (that perhaps could have done with being lit a little more subtly for maximum effect) and an admirable attempt at the kind of dream sequences we used to see in the old Euro Gothics of the 1970s.

Where the film falls down is partly due to a fault of pacing – it’s okay for your film to be slow but there are lengthy segments of Crucible of the Vampire that feel both stilted and redundant. Some (but by no means all) of the acting adds to the slightly amateur feel as well.

All of this could be forgiven (at least by me) if the film had decided to go for some full tilt lurid melodrama Norman J. Warren style, or perhaps try for the lyrical eroticism of Jean Rollin. Unfortunately we get neither of these and as a result Crucible of the Vampire ends up feeling less the art house euro gothic it could possibly have been and more something undemanding audiences can watch without fear of anything disturbing or offensive popping up.

John Llewellyn Probert, guest reviewer via House of Mortal Cinema

Other reviews:

“Florence Cady, as Scarlet Scott-Morton, exudes the same kind of dangerous female sexuality that made Linda Hayden’s performances in Blood on Satan’s Claw and Exposé so compelling. Meanwhile Katie Goldfinch embodies that same, strong-willed heroine that you see in films like Suspiria and Rosemary’s Baby – women trying their damnedest to fight against the rising tide of evil…” Phil Wheat, Nerdly

“Taking elements of classics such as The Wicker Man and the spirit of M. R. James, it’s a film that is very easy to like, despite the occasional beats that don’t quite hit. The tone is pitch-perfect, and will certainly appeal to fans of parlour horror stories and moody old dark house flicks.” Martin Unsworth, Starburst

Screenbound Pictures is releasing Crucible of the Vampire in the UK on HD DVD on 4 February 2019.

Cast and characters:

  • Neil Morrissey … Robert – I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle
  • Brian Croucher … Ezekiel
  • Aaron Jeffcoate … Tom
  • Charles O’Neill … Jeremiah – The House of Screaming Death;The Singing Bird Will Come
  • Katie Goldfinch … Isabelle
  • Babette Barat … Evelyn
  • Larry Rew … Karl – PandemicUnderworld: Rise of the Lycans
  • Florence Cady … Scarlet
  • Lisa Martin … Lydia
  • Richard Oliver … Taxi Driver
  • Phil Hemming … Professor Edwards
  • John Stirling … Stearne
  • Angela Carter … Veronica
  • Peter Rowlinson … Soldier
  • Jeremy Taylor … Soldier
  • Darren Lake … Hooded Figure
  • Michael Molcher … The Captain
  • Graham Langhorne … Soldier
  • David Rowlinson … Soldier

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