Crucible of Horror (1998) Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
CRUCIBLE OF HORROR is very misunderstood film, especially by those who can’t concieve of a horror movie without masked slasher-killers and buckets of gore. A heavily atmosphereic, almost surrealist film with many bizarre elements, shot on what appears to be sixteen millimeter film, it tries to conjure at atmosphere of dread, discomfort and tension rather than one of jump-outta-your-seat terror or hand-me-that-barf-bag disgust. If you don’t like the style of this movie, that’s understandable, but it shouldn’t be knocked merely for its conconformity to stereotype.
CRUCIBLE (alternatively billed as “The Corpse”) is about one of those families who seem normal on the surface but are really as F’d up as is humanly possible - break the crust of normalcy covering this little English clan and you find only writhing horror. Walther Eastwood is many things: Londoner, insurance broker, husband, father, rural cottage-owner, and lover of fine whiskey. He’s also a monster who tortures his hapless wife Edith and sexy young daughter Jane - out of sheer misogyny or as a vent for his incestuous lust, or possibly, both - while doting on his clone-son, Rupert. With his daughter, the torture is quite physical, but the psychological cruelty he inflicts on his wife is worse: this downtrodden, heavily medicated basket-case of a woman harbors notions of becoming an artist which Walther delights in crushing in the most humiliating fashion possible. When the two gals finally decide they’ve had enough, they poison Walther, make it look like a suicide, and then retreat and wait for authorities to discover the body. And here’s where their troubles begin, because Walther’s corpse turns out to be as much of a pain in the arse as his living self was. In the words of an old British pop song, “He’s dead, but he won’t lie down.”
I said this movie was misunderstood without meaning to be condescending to people who dislike it. It is confusing and surreal, and it’s understandable why people would be baffled by it. The key to understanding CRUCIBLE (and I must now issue a SPOILER ALERT)is to grasp that the weird, surreal elements, particularly late in the flick, are not artsy film school affectations, but very literal hallucinations. Like the short stories “Incident at Owl Creek Bridge” or “The Secret Life of Walther Mitty”, virtually the whole of the film is actually nothing but a fantasy of poor Edith Eastwood’s. If the movie has a point, it’s that sufferring people use their imaginations to escape circumstances, but that circumstances invariably drag them back into real life; i.e. that reality trumps fantasy. Edith is emotionally downtrodden and physically abused; her dreams of artistic glory are crushed on a daily basis and even worse, she is unable to protect her daughter from the same deprivations that have ruined her life. Half-delirious from her doses of mood medication, she fantasizes about murdering her husband and achieving the freedom she desires. Unfortunately, even in her fantasies reality intrudes, manifesting itself in Edith’s inability to get rid of Walther’s corpse. Eventually the dream-projection crumbles due to its own inner inconsistencies and Edith awakens into the nightmare of her everyday life. The film’s ending makes it quite clear that for Edith, there is no escape. To me, that was far creepier than Jason Voorhees or an axe-wielding “Stranger” could ever be.
I wouldn’t say CRUCIBLE OF HORROR is really horrifying, or even particuarly scary. The idea isn’t original, and I would freely admit it is very weird and perhaps annoyingly surrealistic and confusing. But as flawed as it is, it has a feeling of creepiness that is very hard to shake…even the end-credit sequence with the water dripping over the rose-bushes made me acutely uncomfortable. Featuring eerie music, coldly gritty cinematography and a truly villainous performance by the normally cuddly Michael Gough, I would recommend it to anyone who wants a breather from the chainsaw-in-the-guts “stylings” of Rob Zombie and Eli Roth.
About Crucible of Horror (1998)
Starring: Michael Gough, Yvonne Mitchell, Sharon Gurney, Simon Gough, Olaf Pooley
Director: Viktors Ritelis