CRUCIBLE OF THE VAMPIRE *** UK 2018 Dir: Iain Ross-McNamee. 97 mins
An engaging throwback to the Gothic horrors of Hammer and Tigon, starring an appealing Katie Goldfinch as a Catholic museum curator tasked with tracking down a pre-Roman stone cauldron previously owned by an associate of Matthew Hopkins. Her search leads to a Shropshire stately home with a dark history, occupied by a charming but subtly sinister couple and their seductive, pantie-sniffing daughter (Florence Cady) who has a secret given away by the 70’s-style title.
Opening with an atmospheric black and white English Civil War prologue, this affectionate homage effectively downplays the on-screen bloodshed and sexual undercurrents, with its most erotic sequence taking place between two clothed female characters. Director Ross-McNamee captures the look and ambience of a vintage English Gothic, making great use of the central manor house and offering fun local colour including the obligatory nosy barmaid and Neil Morrissey’s exposition-spouting gardener. Florence Cady exudes strange, simmering malevolence and sex appeal as the alluring, dangerous Scarlett. After such an evocative slow-burn build up, it’s regrettable that the climax falls back on slasher movie-style cat and mouse antics around the big house, complete with a knife-wielding, fang-baring psycho and a disposable supporting character turning up just to be despatched. More distractingly, awful CGI fire in two major dramatic sequences will age the movie more than anything found in the best of the classic movies it apes.
Review by Steven West