Iain Ross-McNamee tries to take British horror back to the late 1960s and early 1970s with Crucible of The Vampire, a solid low budget fright pic that has enough atmosphere, quirky performances and mystery to keep you hooked. The ending is a bit of a let down and it could have done with more visual panache, but this is an entertaining slice of B-movie horror.
Katie Goldfinch is Isabelle, a curator sent to a mansion to verify that a newly discovered relic is the real deal. The lord of the manor (Larry Rew) is a man not to be crossed, while his daughter Scarlet (Florence Cady) offers Isabelle some electric chemistry as things go bump in the night around the eerily quiet stately home. Things are weird but then they get really weird when Neil Morrissey puts in an appearance as the friendly gardener.
Crucible of The Vampire has its roots firmly in the past and co-writer/director Iain Ross-McNamee has plenty of nods to classic British horror cinema. There’s more than a hint of Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man and whole thing feels like its based on a recently unearthed script from Hammer House Of Horror. The performances are all pitched to mimic these titles with Goldfinch hitting the right naive notes, Rew is requisitely gruff, Cady is vampish and Morrissey is gormless.
It’s something of a shame that the ending of Crucible of The Vampire descends into a chase around a mansion in broad daylight. This goes on for far too long and the tension begins to sag as our heroine tries to evade capture. It’s not enough to derail the film but it’s a serious tonal change from the slow-burn atmospherics which have gone before. It’s also a slight shame that the digital photography is just a bit too bright and clean. If ever a film was crying out for some post-production digital grit and grime, it’s this one.
A film which puts the emphasis on tension rather than gore, Crucible of The Vampire is a horror which attempts to breathe new life into an old-fashioned and largely forgotten era of British filmmaking. Iain Ross-McNamee clearly has a grasp on the tropes and the cast have the delivery just right. The film is not without its flaws, but if you go in with an open mind and an appreciation of the genre then there’s gold to be found in them hills.