Crucible of the Vampire, 2019.
Directed by Iain Ross-McNamee.
Starring Katie Goldfinch, Neil Morrissey, Babette Barat, Brian Croucher, Larry Rew, Angela Carter, and Lisa Martin.
A young museum curator is sent to the Shropshire countryside to investigate the discovery of a crucible dating back to the middle ages.
Crucible of the Vampire is a Gothic horror movie set in an old country manor house and featuring beautiful female vampires wearing low cut tops, a sinister land owner, a local pub and a couple of familiar television actors in secondary roles – it is almost as though someone was trying to channel Hammer Films circa 1970.
However, if the filmmakers wanted to properly resurrect the spirit of Hammer, Amicus, Tigon and all of those classic chillers from the late ’60s/early ’70s then a little bit more flair on both sides of the camera wouldn’t have gone amiss. In true British horror style the plot brings the main character – in this case a young museum curator named Isabelle (Katie Goldfinch – Lucid) – from the familiar surroundings of the city out to the unfamiliar countryside, where the locals all clearly know more than they let on and everybody seems to have secrets. Isabelle has been sent to Shropshire to find out about a piece of a broken crucible that has been found in the grounds of a large manor house owned by the creepy Karl (Larry Rew – Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), his equally strange wife Evelyn (Babette Barat – Lotus Eaters) and their daughter Scarlett (Florence Cady), whose behaviour towards Isabelle is very odd to say the least. Once in the house Isabelle naturally starts to have weird dreams, Karl insists she stays longer than she really needs to and she keeps catching the eye of Robert (Neil Morrissey – I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle), Karl’s gardener who conveniently keeps popping up to offer exposition, and things generally meander along in a soap opera-ish way until the inevitable chase scene out into the sunlight brings things to an abrupt end.
Yes, the film is called Crucible of the Vampire and it contains a crucible and a vampire but yet these things feel tacked on as the filmmakers are clearly desperate to cram in as many nods back to The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General as they can, and if memory serves neither of those movies had a vampire in them which makes the goings on in this film feel a little forced as we move from 17th century Witchfinders putting a middle-aged man (played by former Eastenders actor Brian Croucher) to death to 19th century occultists and up to present day, in a story that really could have been streamlined a bit to find its own voice rather than giving too many nods to other (better) films.
Although it does have a couple of moments – such as the black-and-white flashbacks to the Middle Ages – Crucible of the Vampire just doesn’t have the budget to fully realise what the filmmakers would really like to do or the conviction to go where it hints at, i.e. the lesbian sex scene that is so restrained and tame that there really is no need to have it there at all; Hammer may have been gratuitous with the nudity in their later years but at least they went for it instead of toying with imagery that is supposed to be erotic but really isn’t. It also doesn’t help that the performances match the soap opera feel of the film and just aren’t very convincing, with only Neil Morrissey really giving it any effort but coming off all the worse for it by the material being too weak and making him look like he’s overdoing it when he’s clearly just trying to add a bit of life to a dull script.
Despite its best efforts Crucible of the Vampire just doesn’t have enough weight behind it to achieve what it really wants to, and that is to be a credible throwback to classic British horror movies from yesteryear. The basic ingredients are there but the lack of budget, horrible CGI effects, poor lead performances and over-reliance on things that have been done in other movies – such as the Hitchcock-style fall from a balcony that just looks totally out of place – ultimately results in a messy tribute that misses its mark by a long shot by trying to do too much with so very little.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★