Back in the seventeenth century, the witchfinders were abroad across the land, and one of the people they victimised was the father of a woman executed as a witch. When he was using his cauldron to cook up his stew, one of the authorities arrived and accused him of being in league with the Devil, not hearing any of his protests and cleaving his cauldron in two with his sword to prevent the spells he believed were being cast. The poor father ended up hanged from a tree nearby, but his cauldron has taken on some significance as an important historical relic, so when news comes that the other half of the existing object has been found at a stately home, interest is piqued in the archaeological community...
Imagine how strong you would have to be to slice a cauldron in two with a sword. Maybe it was made by a shoddy manufacturer? Maybe the witchfinder had been working out? Anyway, that was your MacGuffin to get then heroine to the stately home to be menaced, said heroine being lowly researcher Isabelle (Katie Goldfinch with the look of a young Alexandra Bastedo, fans of seventies also-ran - and possible influence here - The Ghoul may be interested to know). She was somehow encouraged by her boss (who may or may not be in on the overall scheme) to move into the rambling pile to conduct said research which appears to be to simply dig up the other half of the pot, an activity you wouldn't think would take days, or even a single afternoon, but the three screenwriters had to have some excuse to have her stick around.
As it turns out, the creepy family who are living there - elderly dad Karl (Larry Rew), middle-aged French maman Evelyn (Babette Barat) and snooty but overfamiliar daughter Scarlet (Florence Cady) - really want Isabelle to hang about, since, in one of many examples of blaring foreshadowing, she announces she doesn't believe in sex before marriage therefore, as she and her boyfriend have split up and she is a virgin, she will be ideal for, ooh, let's say a human sacrifice, to pluck a horror cliché out of the ether. If you can't see where this is going from the first ten minutes, you're simply not trying, it was so weighed down with dropping hints at to the awfulness of Isabelle's fate that it began to get comical rather than sinister. Funnily enough, Neil Morrissey played the gardener, best known for his comedy roles but keeping a straight face here, tied to the project by one of the writers who had made the considerably less serious I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle back in the nineteen-nineties.
There were so many borrowings from other, classic chillers that Crucible of the Vampire resembled a greatest hits package of horror its creators admired, even to the extent of lifting entire shots from the likes of The Omen and The Shining (Morrissey was basically playing Scatman Crothers, then, think on that concept). At just over an hour and a half, it had the feel of a thirty-minute short that had an unexpected budget boost in production so was padded out as a result (there was another historical flashback halfway through), and it did drag after a while even if you weren't playing spot the reference. However, stick with it and you would be rewarded with an energetic runaround for the last twenty minutes, all the better to showcase Cady's knicker-sniffing, Isabelle-masturbating, occasionally-fanged title character. She was a lot of fun and lifted the whole enterprise from its shot-on-a-cameraphone, home movies digital look, archly swanning around to the manor born and really deserving of a better setting for her gleeful villainy, the best thing here by far. As for the rest, it was too keen on "paying tribute" to stand on its own, but not a dead loss once it picked up steam. Music by Michelle Bee.
[Crucible of the Vampire hits cinemas on 1 February, and is available on Dual Edition (Blu-ray & DVD) and Digital from 4 February.]