Saturday 9 February 2019


When a family reports that they may have found the missing piece of the ancient Stern Cauldron, research student Isabelle tries to uncover what lead to the cauldron being split in two. But how was it only just uncovered, and is there a reason why now?

It's not nice to give a little film like this a kicking; after all, I've never made a film, have I? I have to appreciate the boldness of director Iain Ross McNamee, who clearly has grand ambitions for his material, releasing a graphic novel tie-in for this film, and his next effort I Saw Black Clouds some sort of cross platform multimedia experience with an accompanying video game.

It's a shame then, that Crucible of the Vampire is not very good. At all. There's a huge disparity in the level of acting ability, with Neil Morrissey leagues ahead of a whole number of stilted dialogue deliveries and sneering looks given by lesser actors; and without wanting to sound incredibly cruel, that's Neil Morrissey from Men Behaving Badly, AKA the voice of Bob the Builder we're talking about. Morrissey is hardly known for his dramatic performances, is he? But he is rather good here, playing the groundskeeper for the family who have uncovered what may be the missing half of an ancient cauldron.

In charge of uncovering the truth about the cauldron is trainee museum curator Isabelle (Katie Goldfinch), sent to research the artefact whilst dealing with the owners of the estate and their oddball daughter Scarlet (Florence Cady). The locals keep warning Isabelle of strange goings on at the mansion, and Robert (Morrissey) is keen to help this outsider navigate her way through the family's dark past.

It was only at about 55 minutes in that I remembered this film has the word 'vampire' in the title, as up until then it's like a slightly gothic episode of Midsomer Murders. There's a variety of creepy things happening, including a brief flashback to the 1640s where an old man who may or may not have been looking for his cat gets hung from a tree by the Witchfinder General; but vampirism plays a very small part in it. It's a shame that McNamee hasn't drawn more from classic British horror influences, as a Hammer-esque telling of this type of story would have worked better and been more warmly received. Instead, there's some blatant cinematic influences that simply weren't achievable at this level.

The obvious Wicker Man parallels start to become a bit laughable when Isabelle reveals to a barmaid she's known for the time it takes to order two drinks that she is a virgin due to her strict catholic upbringing; religion being something she has referred to earlier in the film as something she doesn't practice. Eh? And as the film approaches its finale and Isabelle darts around the house like it's the Overlook Hotel, the "borrowed" shots from The Shining seem less an homage and more a fan fiction film that would go straight to YouTube.

Crucible of the Vampire is a cheap, low stakes Brit horror that's light on scares and overstuffed with lore and mythology. Sadly, it's not able to match the overwhelming weight of the influences it draws from and arrives undercooked.


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