Thursday, 31 January 2019

Crucible of the Vampire (2019)

Restrained, Surprisingly Coy British Vampire Movie

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 & 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 EuroGothics 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.

CRUCIBLE OF THE VAMPIRE is out from Screenbound in cinemas from Friday 1st February, and on dual format DVD & Blu-ray and on digital platforms (Amazon, Sky, iTunes, Microsoft, Hoopla, Vubiquity and Indemand) on Monday 4th February 2019. 

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