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Crucible of the Vampire Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

Released by Screenbound

Directed by Iain Ross-McNamee
Written by Darren Lake, Iain Ross-McNamee, John Wolskel
2019, 96 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
UK theatrical release on 1st February 2019 and DVD/Blu-ray/VOD release on 4th February 2019

Neil Morrissey as Robert
Brian Croucher as Ezekiel
Katie Goldfinch as Isabelle
Aaron Jeffcoate as Tom

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A title that sounds like an old Hammer movie, a story like something from their television show Hammer House of Horror, and an exceedingly British cast and setting, Crucible of the Vampire is an increasingly rare genre concept. University researcher Isabelle (Katie Goldfinch, playing doe-eyed and virginal) is tasked with a visit to an old Gothic mansion in rural Shropshire, verifying the authenticity of one ancient artefact housed there. Quickly she becomes entangled with the Wicker Man-esque vibes of the local village and the creepy, sinister family at the heart of it all.

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Authentic Hammer mood runs deep through the veins of Ian Ross-McNamee’s second feature, from the black-and-white 1647 prologue (hello Witchfinder General/A Field in England vibes) to the cheesy and unintentionally amusing action showdown that is the film’s finale. It’s like a somewhat badly ageing episode of Hammer House of Horror, except this one was made in 2018, for relative peanuts. One appreciates the intention though, and just as often as not, Crucible of the Vampire hits the marks it aims for. With a real budget and a stronger cast, it could have been the modern Hammer horror film it so desperately wants to be.

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Which isn’t to undersell how well the film is shot, nor how carefully and deliberately the story inches along. Another minor surprise is man-behaving-badly Neil Morrissey as the kindly estate gardener, speaking entirely in exposition but putting in the strongest performance of the lot. To say that Neil Morrissey is the best thing in and about the film feels like damnation with faint praise, but this unexpectedly strong dramatic performance from Bob the Builder does help to elevate Crucible of the Vampire an extra level into true legitimacy. One could slot it into the BBC's 9pm drama schedule without missing much of a beat.

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True, the film loses steam during its ridiculous, overly cheap finale, but the bizarrely placed homages to The Shining and the enthusiasm with which the director and cast throw themselves into it make for enjoyable entertainment nevertheless. It’s no Ghost Stories, but it’s not Lesbian Vampire Killers either, and that counts for a lot.

Crucible of the Vampire is a rare and appreciated attempt at replicating grand old British genre traditions. What it lacks in flair or polish, it makes up for in ambition, style and, uh, Neil Morrissey.


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About The Author
Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer - UK
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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