❉ This tale of vampiric sapphic shenanigans in the country is a throwback to the heyday of Hammer and Euro-horror!
Aiming to evoke the spirit of the heyday of Hammer and Euro-horror, Iain Ross McNamee’s tale of vampiric sapphic shenanigans in the country is a partly successful throwback to those glory days of late horror screenings on the TV, that in the end is let down by the limitations of 21st century low budget filmmaking.
Crucible tells the tale of archaeology researcher Isabelle’s (Katie Goldfinch) investigation of an unearthed cauldron in a large mansion. Upon arrival however, she has to contend with the oddly sinister inhabitants who include a lurching Karl (Larry Rew), his wide-eyed wife Evelyn (Babette Barat) and their beautiful daughter Scarlet (Florence Cady) who immediately not only takes delight in tormenting, teasing the unsuspecting Isabelle but stealing her underwear too when she’s not looking. Events ramp up a notch when Isabelle discovers the secret, occult history of the cauldron.
McNamee’s script, co-written with Darren Lake and John Woskell, ticks along nicely for the most part. The film wants to evoke such titles as Vampyres and Daughters of Darkness with its lesbian vampire overtones, but seems to lack the confidence to really let loose and go for it. Combined with the pedestrian direction it comes across more like a Halloween episode of Hollyoaks. Digital video is one of the worst things to happen to low budget horror filmmaking. Often, as is sadly the case here, proceedings are filmed in an overlit and flat style that robs the story of any atmosphere it needs to display. If this was made in the 70’s/early 80’s on film it would no doubt be able to capture an audience’s imagination and garner a small, devoted following but sadly Crucible of the Vampire has the misfortune of being made too late with too little resources.
For the most part however the film is a diverting watch. With its low budget it could have easily fallen into the trap of being cynically self-aware and needlessly camp. The cast including Neil Morrisey, acquit themselves well by committing to the script, which manages to avoid the majority of low-budget vampire and horror cinema clichés.
For a horror film it must be said though that there are no scares. A fact that is further enforced by the film’s rather relaxed pace. When events do take a turn for the sinister towards the films climax it drags itself out with a needlessly prolonged chase sequence that nearly lasts twenty minutes.
This is a shame as there are some real moments of promise that show a director and writer who succeeds more admirably in some other respects. One flashback section recalls the BBC’s ghost stories of the 70’s with its period setting. There is a slight folk horror vibe in this section that suggests this is an area where the director’s true appreciation for material lies. Perhaps this will be an area he, hopefully, returns to in the future. As a screenwriter McNamee holds true promise. With future projects here is hoping that he concentrates on subject matter that truly engages his passions as a horror writer and that he learns from what he has managed to accomplish here.
❉ ‘Crucible of the Vampire’ Theatrical Release: 1 February 2019.
Run time: 97 Minutes Cert: TBC (Expected 15)
❉ ‘Crucible of the Vampire’ Dual Format (DVD & Blu-ray) Release date: 4 February 2019
❉ ‘Crucible of the Vampire’ Digital Release date: 4 February 2019.
Platforms: Amazon, iTunes, Sky Store, Microsoft, Hoopla, Vubiquity and Indemand.
❉ Iain MacLeod was raised on the North coast of Scotland on a steady diet of 2000AD and Moviedrome. Now living in Glasgow as a struggling screenwriter he still buys too many comics and blu-rays. Has never seen a ghost but heard two talking in his bedroom when he was 4.