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British horror films definitely need support and encouragement although sometimes it can be a difficult task. I am more of an age to appreciate the old guard such as Peter Walker and Norman J Warren and not many recent films from the UK have really done it for me. Of course there are some firm favourites in the past such as Xtro (Harry Bromley Davenport (1982 reviewed here recently) and Richard Stanley’s fantastic Hardware and Dust Devil (1990 and 1992) but with the exception of directors like Neil Marshall, Jake West and Alex Chandon we really could do with some new leading lights for the genre. Perhaps Netflix is the way forward, by far the best recent Brit horror I have seen is Apostle from Welsh via way of Indonesian film-maker (Gareth Edwards) but I was wracking my brain to think of any other good examples. Unfortunately I found Ghost Stories (Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman 2107) derivative and overhyped and although fun you couldn’t really call Attack Of The Adult Babies (Dominic Brunt 2017) anything more than puerile school-boy splatstick.

So we come to Crucible Of The Vampire and I sat down without huge expectations to give it a watch and thankfully found myself entertained and following the plot wondering just where it was going. Take the vampire tag tenuously as this is as much about witchcraft, necromancy and even haunted houses as much as anything. The plot centres around a cauldron that has been split in half in the 1600’s by witch-hunters with tenuous links to Hopkins and Stern (undoubtedly in a nod to one of the best British horror films of all time). The prologue is shot in moody black and white and looks great, the one splash of colour when the sword strikes said cauldron. Still it shouldn’t have split so easily, it must have come from the 17th century equivalent of Poundland.

Flashing forward to modern times, half of this relic is owned by a university who get a call saying the other half has just been unearthed in Shropshire. It’s left to Isabelle (Katie Goldfinch) to go and take a look at the relic in the stately home where it has cropped up. Naturally the family there are not all they seem. We have Karl (Larry Rew) who seems only interested in getting as much money for the urn as possible, his wife Evelyn (Babette Barat) who seems interested only in feeding Isabelle strange potions making her trip out in her sleep and then there’s daughter Scarlet (Florence Cady). She is a closet pantie sniffer (I wasn’t expecting that) dancer and has obvious lesbian designs on Isabelle providing a good dose of nudity and British smut to the proceedings along the way. Gelling the tale along we have gardener Robert played by a man behaving very nicely and attempting to look after our heroine in peril Neil Morrissey and of course there’s some strange people down ye olde country pub.

Essentially the plot is quite simple and a tad daft and this is a melodrama with supernatural and gothic tropes dished up in a modernist way. Harking back to literature and films of the past Crucible Of The Vampire is an engaging watch and it is certainly entertaining. Don’t however go into this expecting something as delirious as Ken Russell’s Lair Of The White Worm (1988) and gore hounds be warned this is a largely bloodless affair and one with a bit too much reliance on CGI effects. Performances are on the whole good especially those of Larry Rew who plays a Meldrew like curmudgeon brilliantly and Florence Cady who really knows how to vamp things up and steals every scene she is in. Biggest stars are the Shropshire countryside and the old village look of locations and the cinematography here is particularly striking. It’s early days for the director who has one film The Singing Birds Will Come (2015) under his belt and another I Saw Black Clouds under production. I guess with the civil war beginning and the legends incorporated some may think of Ben Wheatley and tag this a folk-horror tale but for me this was not quite at such a level and although I enjoyed it I’m not sure quite how it is going to fare in the memory a couple of years down the line. A limited cinema release is on the cards at the end of January and Crucible Of The Vampire follows on disc and demand in early Feb.

We have one copy of the film to give away and all you have to do is answer this simple question and send your answer along with name and address to pete@avenoctum.com

Q: This is not the first time Neil Morrissey has battled vampires name the other British 1990 film he also got his fangs stuck into?

Pete Woods

https://www.screenbound.co.uk/product/crucible-of-the-vampire-sip0636