MAY 14, 2012
It’s bad enough that Crucible Of Terror is a dull film that barely even meets the requirements of “Horror?”, but it’s also a confusing one. Only one thing happens in the entire movie and then the final 5 minutes tell you that it didn’t happen, so unless you’re a Michael Gough completist or just love watching people yammer in a big British manor, I suspect you can find something better to do with your time.
To its credit, there’s a decent idea at its core – it’s basically a remake of Diabolique but with a mother and daughter looking to kill the man who is making their lives a living hell. Gough plays the tyrannical father, and he’s pretty damn scary – one of the film’s few “action” bits involves him whipping his daughter for stealing, and it’s pretty horrifying to a modern day audience who only knows him as the kindly Alfred from the pre-Nolan Batman films. Like Diabolique, the “murder” occurs around the halfway mark (once we hate him enough to side with them), and then the rest depicts what happens when their plan goes awry.
But instead of that film’s clever twists and double crosses, we just a bunch of confusion. The body disappears, a dummy wearing a Gough mask swings from the ceiling like Bob in Halloween, and then Gough is shown to be fully alive. So what happened? Did they accidentally kill a dummy or an impostor? Was he not really dead? Was he even in the crate when they buried it at sea? Etc, etc – there are many possibilities, and the movie offers nothing in the way of answers. You can be ambiguous about certain things, but it’s not the best idea when it’s the main plot. It’d be like leaving it up to the audience to decide whether or not John McClane stops the terrorists or saves his wife in Die Hard. No, follow through on that, let us nerds wonder about the minor stuff like whether or not Theo got away or arrested (think about it – Argyle knocks him out, then drives off with McClane without talking to anyone).
And come on, you’ve bored us for 80 minutes and now you’re going to leave us hanging? Again, there’s some mild amusement to be had at watching Alfred Pennyworth smacking people around, but that dies off quickly, and no one else in the movie is all that memorable (though the daughter is quite lovely). And it has a slight bit of Hammer feel, but it doesn’t have any of those films’ rich cinematography or atmosphere. Most of the movie takes place in the house, where the folks sit around the dinner table or sip brandy in the parlor, so it more closely resembles a BBC special than a feature. Nice cliff during the “burial” scene though.
This has nothing to do with the movie really, but I’m kind of bummed to discover that this will be one of the last entries on my Pure Terror set, despite only being the 13th. There are 50 films on the set, but many are duplicated from the others (mostly Tales of Terror), and others are heavily edited versions which I refuse to watch. Then there are a few that I can’t possibly believe to be horror films (one of the movies is a Japanese adventure about a spaceman), which I find kind of insulting when you consider a. Mill Creek has plenty of sci-fi sets and b. like there aren’t hundreds of public domain horror movies to put on the disc instead? Even tossing on Night of the Living Dead for the millionth time would make more sense – it’s not like there are a bunch of people like me who own several of these damn sets.
Another film on this set that I had seen before is Satan’s Slave, which also involves Gough and a British manor, but is far superior to this. Stick with that one.
What say you?