Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 23/03/2018

CRUCIBLE OF THE VAMPIRE

We first came across director Iain Ross-McNamee with his debut film The Singing Bird Will Come, which was an atmospheric old-school-style piece that really impressed us. This next feature similarly favours story and mood over cheap shocks. It’s a captivating and well-made film that will appeal to fans of the slower-paced movies of old as opposed to special-effects-driven gory shockers.

Isabelle (Goldfinch) works as a junior curator at a museum and is tasked by her boss to check the validity of a find at an old country house. It’s one half of a cauldron that was split into two centuries ago when its owner was accused of witchcraft. The museum already has one half, and if it proved genuine, could be a valuable historic discovery. At least the house owner, Karl (Larry Rew) thinks so and appears to be keen to get as much as possible for it and won’t let it leave the premises until a settlement is made. Isabelle is curious as to why the Professor (Phil Hemming) won’t undertake this potentially important treasure himself but nervously accepts the responsibility.

Once at the house, she’s made welcome but whether it’s the isolated nature of the property and village or the rather off-kilter behaviour of Karl’s daughter Scarlett (Cady), she can sense there’s something amiss. An encounter with a young lad following her through the grounds at night does nothing to help her unease. Meanwhile, Scarlett’s strange activities begin to get even worse as she starts showing more than a friendly interest in Isabelle, even going as far as to steal the visitor’s undergarments from her overnight bag (we’re not too sure about her giving them a sniff, though… perhaps she’d forgotten the fabric softener?).

Crucible of the Vampire is beautifully shot. The quality of the production gives the feeling of a much bigger budget. 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.

Having Neil Morrissey appear as the gardener is a minor scoop, but he’s really only along as a tool to info-dump exposition and while this feels a little forced at times, it’s not an overt problem as the pace and delivery of the rest of the tale is pleasing enough. It would actually work even without any explicit ‘vampire’ moments as it’s such an engaging story that is both broodingly ethereal, visually eloquent and thoroughly enjoyable.  As it is, it’s a fine stab at bringing back a style of movie that is sorely missed by many.

CRUCIBLE OF THE VAMPIRE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: IAIN ROSS-MCNAMEE / SCREENPLAY: DARREN LAKE, IAIN ROSS-MCNAMEE, JOHN WOLSKEL / STARRING: KATIE GOLDFINCH, NEIL MORRISSEY, FLORENCE CADEY, BRIAN CROUCHER, AARON JEFFCOATE / RELEASE DATE: TBC

Expected Rating: 7 out of 10

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