EVIL Necking in Bavaria! “The Kiss of the Vampire” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)


English newlyweds, Gerald and Marianne Harcourt, travel by motorcar to their honeymoon destination when, all of the sudden, the car breaks down in a small Bavarian village. The remote village is barren of life except a few irregular villagers remaining reclusive in their residence. Unable to go any further, the Harcourts stay at the local hotel where one other guest resides. Soon, their presence is requested in invitation by Dr. Ravna, a prominent and respected gentlemen of affluence, to have dinner with him and his family, but little do the newlyweds know is that Dr. Ravna is the master of a vampiric cult that has been plaguing the small village, turning the inhabitants into acolyte vampires, and now Dr. Ravna has turned his fixation on the beautiful Marianne. Will Marianne succumb to the vampire’s alluring powers or with the help of Professor Zimmer, a drunkard vampire hunter bitter with revenge, stop Dr Ravna before it’s too late for his new wife.

Stepping once again into the mystifyingly, macabre tale of a Hammer Films’ production, “The Kiss of the Vampire” stimulates as one of the progenies of the early beginnings that is today’s Hammer Horror as we know it and adore with the 1963 gothic tale of seductive vampirism and the callous, if not equally heartful, reprisal of the brokenhearted vampire hunter from director Don Sharp, who would direct a decade later the deadly occult riders of 1973’s “Psychomania” aka “The Death Wheelers.” The picture is produced and penned by “The Curse of the Werewolf’s” Anthony Hinds with the latter being credited under Hinds’ pseudonym, John Elder. Perhaps one of the lesser known Hammer Horror films due to limited broadcasting, “The Kiss of the Vampire” becomes the next installment of a Hammer Horror classic upgraded through a 2K scan from Scream Factory for maximum restoration on a nearly five decade year old film that included a scene straight out of the book of Alfred Hitchcock, but instead of birds, a swarm of crazed bats scour a chateau tower for blood. One of the last films to be shot at the Bray Studios in Berkshire, England, “The Kiss of the Vampire” is a smooch baring fangs that pits good versus evil marred as a defect from the Devil himself.

At the center of the natural versus supernatural tug-a-war is Marianne, a young, blonde English on the heels of being quickly hitched to Gerald Harcourt seemingly on the downlow, is played by Welsh actress Jennifer Daniel, who, at the time, was a newcomer to full-length features as she developed a steady career in television from the 50’s to the 60’s. Daniel is no Tippi Hedren, but she’s close, as the English socialite having embarked toward unfamiliar surroundings, a brooding Bavarian land with a fatal affliction that’s ravaging through the residents. Marianne and Gerald, an elated husband in a role by Edward de Souza, make a fairly adorable couple complete with newfound marital bliss and ignorance of the harsh realities of the outside world; perhaps, that young and in love ignorance is the most profound theme in “The Kiss of the Vampire” that explores the naïve nature of outsiders and blinded youthful endeavors despite the clear and present dangers that loom around them. Playing Dr. Ravna, who is not Dracula mind you, is Noel Willman, who bares a stunning resemblance to plumper Peter Cushing, and Willman’s socialite role is interesting as Dr. Ravna’s a blunt around the edges and, yet, unbelievably charming, a find blend from the Irish born actor who would later collaborate again with Jennifer Daniel in another Hammer Films product, “The Reptile,” in 1966. Opposite to the abundance of Dr. Ravna’s seemingly endless wealth and power is Professor Zimmer, a brooding dipsomaniac hellbent on destroying Dr. Ravna for the death of his daughter, played by “The Curse of the Werewolf’s” Clifford Evans. Though we know immediately from the opening graveyard funeral scene Professor Zimmer’s outskirt profession, his dark top hat, cape, sunken eyes, and brash persona places him in a seemingly villainous category and that displays Clifford Evan’s range as an actor. “The Kiss of the Vampire’s” strong support cast includes Jacquie Wallis, Peter Madden, Isobel Black, Vera Cook, and “The Devil-Ship Pirates’” Barry Warren as an intense spellbinder disciple of Dr. Ravna.

Critically speaking, “The Kiss of the Vampire” tenders more of an extension of the vampire mythos that directs more of the classic creature to the enigmatic way of the cult through an elegant Don Sharp vision rich in Gothicism and sound in the era it’s portrayed, early 20th century. Focusing more on the Hinds’ story that more or less involves Dr. Ravna’s fascination with Marianne to join his co-ed harem, the way he initiates Marianne might also indicate that the good doctor his binary feelings toward both sexes, making “The Kiss of the Vampire” very much an appealing, but clandestine, homoerotic companion to it’s more straight seduction tale. Another more obvious taboo for a film from the early 1960’s, “The Kiss of the Vampire” has no shame in being bloody. Scenes involving Professor Zimmer impaling his undead daughter violently with a shovel through her coffin and the blood floods upon the coffin opening is morbidly beautiful. Even when Gerard Harcourt smears with blood the sign on the cross on his chest is an absolute eye opener of the use of blood, as a weapon, and a defender of holy sanctums that nearly frightened Universal Pictures to the point of changing the entire essence of Sharp’s original depiction. Yet, one thing is constant between Hammer’s version and Universal’s broadcasted edit, the batty ending is a quick, cut-corner finale that puts a bat screeching halt to everything the story built up to and leaves plot holes that go seriously unexplained no matter how newfangled the method was on how to dispatch a cultish vampire coven. Okay, that’s enough vampire puns for this review.

Pucker up! “The Kiss of the Vampire” is receiving a Blu-ray collector’s edition treatment from Scream Factory! The interpostive went through a 2K scan and presented in a high definition, 1080p, of two widescreen aspect ratios, 1.66:1 and 1.85:1. The picture is phenomenal with lush hues that earlier home video versions, even the Warner Blu-ray boxset, didn’t even skim the level of Scream Factory’s collector’s edition. Colors only fade during the superimposed editing between scenes that really rack the vision cortexes to try and make sense of the transitions. The original negative survived well over the years with little wear and tear that consists of some minor scratches that are barely noticeable. The English language DTE-HD Master Audio mono track is a suitable accompaniment for single channel audio. Dialogue is clear and relatively unobstructed aside from a low distortional hum throughout the entire 88 minute runtime, but it’s faint enough to be a natural tune of the film. One audio mishap happens around the opening scene with the priest’s depth during his graveside sermon. The priest’s dialogue starts out strong and prominent, but when cut to Professor Zimmer, standing far in the distance, the priest vocals are reduced by a few decimals, but the volume remains the same when cut back to the priest, never upping his dialogue when cut back to his graveside sermon. English SDH subtitles are optional. A slew of new bonus material includes a new audio commentary by film historian and author Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr and Little Shoppe of Horror’s founder, Richard Klemensen, speaks in tribute to the life of the Men Who Made Hammer with composer James Bernard and production designer Bernard Robinson. Other bonus content includes audio commentary with actors Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel that’s moderated by Peter Irving, deleted scenes from Universal’s NBC Broadcast that are bloodless filler interjections reshot with a brand new sub-story involving new characters not from the Don Sharp production, and the theatrical trailer. “The Kiss of the Vampire” might be an offbeat Hammer film, but the Scream Factory collector’s edition aims to infiltrate into horror collections nationwide with glorious looking picture and a stockpile of new bonus features to chew on.

Own The Kiss of the Vampire on a Scream Factory Collector’s Edition.

Vampire + Psychopath = Evil in “Blood Widow” reviewed! (Indican Pictures / Screener)


A serial killer with severe mother and father issues stabs to death beautiful young women in urban Arizona. Two detectives are hot on his trail, but when they begin to find his victims with nonidentical wound patterns, including bite marks on their necks, the detectives are thrown into a loop of ancient supernatural proportions. Another pair of seekers, vampires whom have lived for centuries, track down the same serial killer for one very specific reason – his blood. The blood is a certain and rare hemoglobin type needed to resuscitate their dying breed, but with the killer’s instability rendering him volatile and dangerous, turning him into one of the powerful undead becomes risky business for humans and vampires alike.

With the backdrop of the city of Tucson, Arizona comes an off plumb detective-crime thriller smack dab in the middle of a vampiric rebirthing with Brendan Guy Murphy’s unconventional modern vampire tale, “Blood Widow.” Directed by Murphy and co-written by Dominic Ross (who had a main role in the Ron Jeremy starring’s “Blood Moon Rising,” “Blood Widow,” which is also known as “Viuda de Sangre,” is Murphy’s first venture into full length feature films. The veteran actor has starred in such films such as “The Minstrel Killer” and the unbeknownst to all, 2012 follow up to Dennis Hopper’s “Easy Rider,” “Easy Rider 2: The Ride Home,” but to his directorial credits, only a couple of short films are listed, testing Murphy’s hand at the proverbial helm of a multi-branched story with hard-nosed detectives, deranged killers, and a desperate vampire faction. “Blood Widow” is a production of Brendan Guy Murphy’s Tucson based production company, MurphySpeaking Films.

Murphy steps into the villainous shoes of Keller, the disturbed serial killer with mommy and daddy issues who remains elusive from two of Arizona’s finest detectives, played by James Craven, who has been virtually cinematically silent since the early 2000’s, and Dallas Thomas. Keller troubling backstory is briefly visual in the aftermath of his rage resulting in his terribly abusive and estranged parents. Murphy and Ross poorly incorporate the effects of Keller’s horrendous maltreatment into his transformed character; a battering character flaw untapped for persona turmoil that ultimately subsides to Keller’s newfound powers that give him nearly unstoppable bloodthirst and debauchery. Craven’s detective Valentine and the original vampire duo, Lilith (debut performance by Melissa Aguirre Fernandez) and Slight (Hector Ayala), also suffered from feebly storylines that involves a cocktail of Craven’s alcoholism and on-the-job trauma and Lilith and Slight’s early 20th century bond during the violent prejudicial times of vampire inquisitions in New Mexico. Each backstory is only merely, and half-heartedly, touched upon to give just a morsel of the full character that can never entirely arc to either redemption and falter. Aside from that, performances all around are solid enough to be enthusiastic charged. James Craven is chin deep into being a defiant detective with an obsession for capturing a killer who has become an elusive and terrifying figment of subconscious stress and haunting visions. Audiences can, again only briefly, be pulled into detective Valentine’s grim existence, provided by Craven’s unsullied efforts. Cisiany Oliver (“Jessicka Rabid”) and Abdul Salaam El Razzac (“Terminator 2: Judgement Day”) co-star.

I keep returning to the title, over and over again, puzzled in trying to explain or articulate why the film is titled as “Blood Widow.” Nothing apparent and explicit comes to the presentation forefront or to the bio-gears of my mind that would make the first instance of vampire activity with Lilith, I assume, a widow. Lilith’s brief backstory confides no pain of loss or grief and the little evidence that supports the possible catalyst front might have inkling hints at her sexual orientation, a prejudice witch hunt which would result in bearing bereavement, even if it’s 80+ years strong. Lilith has an arbitrary flashback that exhibits the brutal staking of another woman in her group of suspected vampires in broad daylight, one of the select unconventional vampire motifs revamped for “Blood Widow,” and though Lilith and the rest in her group were denying every aspect of the claim, their elongated fangs were in clear view and didn’t necessarily assist in their defense. The slain woman could have been a possible lover perhaps, paralleling a symbolic labeled perversion of lesbianism, but the fact that all suspects were women is the only clue toward that theory. Again, this is all objective and circumstantial on my part, but I can’t pinpoint another reason for such a title. Lack of connection comes to be a reoccurring theme in “Blood Widow” that fails to materialize more contextual value toward the scenes, titles, and characters for beneficial storytelling and less inscrutable acts.

Ultimate power is laced in the blood, but what if that power is used for evil? That’s what the Indican Pictures’s distributed “Blood Widow” sinks it’s teeth into with a digital platform release and the promise of a DVD home video release soon again. Unfortunately, I was provided with a DVD-R screener, so the video and audio technical aspects will not be critiqued for this review, but the dialogue audio mix is in English and Spanish with English subtitles. Some bonus features were included, such as outtakes and the trailer. “Blood Widow” has a premise of a promising, independent contemporary vampire hook, but without enriching mythos and some sort of connective coherency, “Blood Widow” wobbles through the approach to an unsatisfactory finale.

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The EVILs of Drugs, Addiction, and Art in “Bliss” reviewed!


Dezzy Donahue, a struggling Los Angeles artist, lives life ferociously with hard drugs and heavy drinking despite the cautionary advice of her quasi-boyfriend, Clive. Her current masterpiece falls behind on schedule and she hits a formidable creative block that results in being fired by her managing agent and with cash quickly dwindling, Dezzy’s losing the battle for inspiration that turns to an increasing narcotic intake surging through her system where any and all substances are fair game to explore. When she snorts a line of Diablo, a blissful, out of body experience drug, she finds herself in a rapturous three way with friend Courtney and her on-off side piece Ronnie that leave her with a post-high, post-sex altering inner body inexperience of opening the flood gates on her creativity to draw again as well as pang her with an insatiable need for a fix when no longer riding the high. Soon, Dezzy discovers the Diablo might not have been the drug that lit the fire inside her when a strong craving for blood becomes an inescapable addiction and a means to finally finish her greatest triumph work of art.

An audio/visual besieging rabbit hole shiplapped with braided beleaguering addiction and vampiric pathology in the stimulating aggressive, Joe Begos written and directed visceral horror, “Bliss,” set in the sordid Los Angeles metal scene. The “Almost Human” and “The Mind’s Eye” filmmaker hypnotizes on a stroboscope wave with his latest take on the vampire mythos with a drug-fueled, warmongering hell on a canvas tale of sex, drugs, and diabolical fiend cravings. Produced by Channel 83 Film, as are all of Bego’s works, “Bliss” is the director’s next notch up on the crazy, unrestrained belt that’s already garnished and weaponized with razor wire and three-inch cone spikes and while the story itself isn’t fashioned for originality, the way Joe Bego’s exfoliates the overripe garbage of rehashed formulaic filmmaking from the excessively strained eyeballs, sheepish with mawkish and dull stories, will be a new design to treasure as cult status.

Where’s “Bliss’s” 2019 nomination for best actress in a lead role!? Dora Madison seizes the performance of Dezzy Donahue by storm inside a role of careless abandonment that coils into viperous mode and lashes out with a deadly strike of unconventional fangs. Madison embraces the exotic Joe Begos route covered in blood, paranoia, and a sleazy shade of florescent neon and runs a willingness to express his mesmerizing vision with body cam harnesses. “Bliss” quickly establishes a hard-hitting tenor and Madison, whose credits include “The Loft,” “Night of the Babysitter,” and in the next upcoming Begos release, “VFW,” exacts a fortified layer of extreme sovereign, a do-what-I-want policy with a zero complaint department attitude, while stowing away what little hope and compassion Dezzy has in the forgotten corners of her plainspoken mind until the moment is too late to turn back. The story solely follows Dezzy’s perception of events as she encounters and reencounters characters before and after needing a junkie’s fix, an exaggerated play on an abusers volatile relationships. The cast affixed to roles of Dezzy’s vexing fix are Tru Collins, Rhys Wakefield (“The Purge”), Jeremy Gardner (“The Mind’s Eye”), Graham Skipper (“Carnage Park”), Chris McKenna (“King of the Ants”), Rachel Avery, Abraham Benrubi (“Wristcutters: A Love Story”), and that lovable “Cheers” regular, George Wendt.

At this point in the review, an overabundance of praise for Joe Begos’ “Bliss” has been logged by this reviewer, who is obviously a fan of the film, but more can be unquestionably explored. From previous reviews and comments I’ve come across regarding “Bliss,” a minority have displayed a disdain for the indistinct theme of drug withdraws and vampirism that resembles Abel Ferrera’s 1995 film “The Addiction,” but instead of being set in shadowy alleys of New York’s urban jungle, Bego’s relocates to the wayward esse of L.A. life. Perhaps Begos was inspired by Ferrera’s undiluted struggle and violence that makes “Bliss” a clone to “The Addiction’s” chief thread, but the film’s are artistically polar opposites. “The Addiction’s” black and white photography and slow-burn air tunes more into the story of the Shakespearian tragedy variety, especially when Christopher Walken provides lengthy life stance and coping monologues to establish his eternal dominance over Lili Taylor. “Bliss” proclaims a stimulus trip from the very beginning with a favorable thrashing metal soundtrack and an psychedelic filmic presence that comes with an opening epileptic warning. Both films compliment the figurative comparison for a fix in their own poetic ways and would make a fantastic double feature release or double bill midnight movie.

If this writeup has a jonesing affect, “Bliss” is cut and lined ready for blipping on an Umbrella Entertainment DVD home video presented by Dark Sky Films. The Channel 83 Films production is presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, being shot with a ARRI/ZEISS Super Speed Lenses, as credited on IMDB, that would explain the sharp image and stark contrasts on the colors. The visual perception of the seemingly humming-on-your-eyeballs neon lighting barely lets you experience the film in natural lightening during night scenes and only in the daytime that resembles the little normalcy left of Dezzy’s life, fade away with natural light the more she succumbs to blood cravings. “Bliss” feels and acts out like a 90’s film, slightly grainy for grindhouse seduction by way of shooting of actual film stock (35mm!), and forgoes the bubbly shine of perfection, coinciding damningly with Dezzy’s inner circle of sleaze, grime, and gore. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has a lot of kick and energy with a prevailing metal and punk/post-punk soundtrack feature Doomriders, Deth Crux, and Electric Wizard just to name drop a few. Dialogue is clean with an appropriate depth in the midsts of hard partying and live bands. Range is a little harder to discern since the soundtrack really is overpowering and dialogue sops up the remaining amount of audio track space, but when opted, the ripping of flesh and breaking of bones doesn’t disappoint. No subtitles are offered. Like many of Umbrella Entertainment’s standard releases, the single sided, singer layer DVD has no static menu or special features to offer other than the 80 minute runtime feature. “Bliss” is one coked-out, blood hungry hell of a vampire tangent from the norm that rectifies the optic and audible sanctuary for shock brilliancy to flesh out the Machiavellian in all of us.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KdXU-n7qSg]

You want it, You need it, You desire it! Own “Bliss” today!

A Charlatan Who Surrounds Herself With Evil! “Vampz!” Review!


After countless interview screenings, Simone struggles to find a suitable roommate just like herself with an insatiable longing to be one of the undead, specifically, a vampire. As she strikes out applicant-after-applicant, her twin brother Sam persuades her to lock in on Ashlee, a beautiful, yet energetically ditzy cheerleader new to town who shows up late at night looking for a place of her own and with looming rent bills sucking her dry cash, Simone begrudging agrees on the dimwitted and un-vampiric prospect. Unbeknownst to Simone, one of her former screenings turns out to be a coked out vampire hunter and with Simone declaring herself a vampire during the screening, the oblivious and hopped up hunter’s ability to distinguish between the real McCoy and a wannabe has severely disintegrated as he aims to drive a long, wooden stake through her heart, but when the Hunter comes to claim his bounty, he inadvertently teams up with Simone and Ashlee against a tenebrous conspirator with a penchant for control of ghouls and monsters to not only save their lives, but also their friends.

“Vampz!” is the filmic version of a chaptered web series, that found a crowdfunded presence from circa 2012. Much like in the same vain as the “Hell’s Kitty” DVD release, “Vampz!” didn’t partake in any re-imagining, re-shoots, or even a re-cast for the movie; in fact, the so-called 2019 movie, helmed by director Ramsey Attia and scripted by Omar Attia and Lenoard Buccellato, is actually the web series spliced together to construct a 76 minute feature. To maintain comedy integrity that calls for hyperbolic reactions, profanity heavy dialogue, and some really nifty and amusing pop cultural intertwining, like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody dialogue rendition had me biting my smirking lip in assurance, Attia and Buccellato’s script never deviates from course. There’s are also other subtle homages that can be easily identified throughout. Between the TV web series and the film, no cast alterations or implementations have been made and so all of the established humor from the web series is still engrained from the actors and having never seen “Vampz!’ the series, gauging what, if any, soul from the original product is lost in the nearly decade old translation cannot be confirmed, but “Vampz!” has resilient comedic bite, going for both canine fangs into the throat in the face of being an independent picture.

Lilly Lumière at the forefront with her character Simone Castillo, an aspiring bloodsucker in all its fashionably formulaic vampire glory without being the recently bastardized Hollywood version a.k.a. “Twilight” trilogy, becomes the eyeliner nucleus of the story. Lumière presents an eye rolling, goth decked out quasi-vampire with a die hard approach to the banal side of the vampire mythos. Simone becomes the BFF target of Ashlee, who from the depths of the night shows up at her doorstep seeking the room for rent. Ashlee doesn’t seem to be Simone’s type, a high-spirited cheerleader tryout who is new to town; in fact, Ashlee represents all that is distasteful to Simone’s undead facade. Christal Renee has the vivacious personality type to pull the give me a S-U-P-E-R hyped Ashlee! Then there is Denis Ark as psychotic vampire hunter Marcus Denning. Ark is not just certifiable on screen, but he’s also certified off screen as a personal fitness trainer. With 20+ years in martial arts and sports training, Ark tackles the moderately physical role with ease and provides some point blank comedy. “Vampz!” remaining cast of misfits include Louis Rocky Bacigalupo, Guy N. Ease, and Cliff Hunter.

Shot in Peterson, New Jersey, “Vampz!” has a very Jersey feel, not to be confused with having an Italian Jersey Shore feel, despite being just a hop, skip, and a jump across the water from New York and even with that chip on the shoulder emanating from off of the screen and on the penny-pinching, crowd funded budget, the web series is without a doubt well done. The humor is touch and go with some misguided antiquation, but the effects capitalizes over that portion of content, especially when a creature or two appear for their grand entrance into the storyline. “Vampz!” has solid special effects working heavily to lead the charge into turning what could have been ho-hum film into a quasi engaging creature feature that deviates from the staggering conventionalism and genre tropes.

MVDVisual and Ruthless Studios sinks their teeth into the A Rear Naked Studios Production of “Vampz!” releasing the Ramsey Attia horror-comedy onto DVD home video in its full web series storyline. Presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ration, the region free disc picture doesn’t provide a flavorful presentation. Attia and his team went faux grindhouse approach by adding grain and “missing scenes” on a pseudo-polyester film base, but the film looks washed and uninviting with droll hues. The English language dual-channel stereo track lies above the fray image with ample range of ambient sounds and a prominent dialogue track. Depth hardly comes through with most of the ambient remaining on a level plane that doesn’t resonate elsewhere from between outside and inside the finale factory or in between room-to-room. There are no bonus features included on this DVD that has curious cover art. Front cover pictures a badly photoshopped composition of a short red haired woman wearing an boxy amulet overtop a cutoff top and drinking blood out of a martini glass with a plastic straw. There’s also a white snake wreathed around the V and A of “Vampz!” and the same snake is also wrapped around the shoulders of a silhouette figure on the back cover but there are no snakes in this film, nor is there an high class, red-headed vampires drinking blood out of a martini glass so the cover is misleading. “Vampz!” garnishes heart and soul of the modern classic horror creature while adding a cascading charm of moderate-to-light hearted comedy to mask the rough edges of a home grown brew grindhouse film thats bemusing to perceive from a deceptively cheap DVD cover art.

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Evil’s Brewing in “Crucible of the Vampire” review!


When half of an archaic crucible is discovered while excavating in the basement of an old Victorian mansion, Isabelle, an assistant museum curator, is hastily dispatched to authenticate the finding and to confirm the analyst that the cauldron is, in fact, the missing second half to the one in the museum’s possession. Isabelle is greeted by the estate owner, Karl, his wife Evelyn, and their eccentric daughter Scarlet who welcome Isabelle to stay with them while she evaluates the crucible. The unnerving manor home keeps Isabelle awake at night as she frightfully witnesses silhouettes of a young woman wandering through the haunting corridors and the untended rooms. As Karl brushes Isabelle’s nightly concerns to the side, impatiently urging her to summon for the other half of the piece and finalize a match that would then focus on the crucible’s value, the young curator can’t shake the continuously dreadful sensation that danger lurks in every dark corner of the estate and that the residents are inherently grooming her for a sinister awakening of immortality and power.

Writer-director Iain Ross-McNamee has diffidently checked all the British-gothic horror boxes in his latest film, a brooding vampire macabre entitled “Crucible of the Vampire.” “The Singing Bird Will Come” director co-writes the script with Darren Lake and “I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle” screenwriter John Wolskel to reel in the once was, the gilded age of British horror that made a nick in time with the vehemently violent and boldly colorful enriched Hammer Horror. Like other genetic make-ups of horror bodies, Hammer Horror has a genome of a check list of self-defining attributes and “Crucible of a Vampire” aims to notch a few key elements including the Gothicism finesse, the sexually unchaste vampire, and, also, to deliver big horror on a small budget. Ross-McNamee places stakes not into the cold, bloodthirsty hearts, but more so into construing a film that isn’t a carbon copy of the old days, adding a contemporary digital presentation that’s laced generously with contemporary photography techniques even when the opening prelude is set in the 17-century and shot in a sepia style.

The story centers around the assistant curator, Isabelle, who has wearisome tendencies of 24/7 suspicion, being a pawn in every sense of the word. From the head curator to Karl’s family, Isabelle finds herself alone in tight spots and not many people she can count on. There are a couple of characters that are potential allies, but their feeble attempts in buffering Isabelle from the house’s evil secret are no thinker than a single sheet of college rule paper. Isabelle herself is her strongest defense and when push comes to shove, the curator turns ass kicker against a family of vampire acolytes. Katie Goldfinch handles Isabelle with reasonable composure, if not slightly timid at times, especially during fight sequences. Goldfinch sustains her lead performance of her sophomore feature film that is exposition heavy to formulate an isolating and intimidating dynamic between her and Karl’s family. Karl’s portentous cruelty is town-renowned, shaped by rumors and peppered with truisms and Larry Rew channels Karl precisely. The “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” actor has traditional methods of able to creep one out by standing still and speaking with a vigorously commanding tone, but Rew feels significantly older compared to his wife and daughter. Karl’s wife, Evelyn, stammers as a wild card in a role that seems to go nowhere and Babette Barat can only strut her hippie performance of Evelyn so far until we’re wondering what’s significance as a mother, as a wife, and as part of the crucible grand scheme. Scarlet had the opposite effect as the daughter was overly forward with defining her intentions that toward Isabelle that involved stealing, desiring, and chastising. Scarlet’s predestined for villainy and actress Florence Cady provides a fringe heavy and tantalizing seductive performance. So much so, Cady nearly becomes the female lead, but certainly overshadows the crucible’s calling, a vampire named Lydia, a non-verbal role with barely much screen time given to wild-eye, teased haired, and paled Lisa Martin. Angela Carter, Brian Coucher (1995’s “Underworld”), Phil Hemming, Aaron Jeffcoate (AMC’s “The Terror”), Charles O’Neill (“Cripsy’s Curse”), and the UK Bob of “Bob the Builder” Neil Morrissey co-star.

If “Crucible of the Vampire” is supposed to be a reawakening of British gothic horror, Ross-McNamee went without the vibrancy of color and went without much of the fervent violence that Hammer Productions was keen on. “Crucible of the Vampire” sustains a dissimilar path focally toward more exposition to forefront a narrative until an action climax that’s initiated by awkwardly edited gratuitous nudity and weak character flaws. Like being brewed inside the ironclad enclosure of a crucible, the filmmaker simmered a story that quietly bubbled to the surface until it boiled over uncontrollably and extinguished itself, splattering onto the floor below in a heap of smoke. Act three is misshapen by the prior two acts with one issue being Isabella transforming in an instant into a complete bad ass when faced with death because of her pure, virgin blood. In a blink of an eye, she literally kills five acolytes with a melee weapons that include a rustic knife, the crucible, a metal pipe, and a fired filled chalice. The kill by fire chalice and other igniting instances during the film saw shoddy outcomes of superimposed, computer generated fire which really do speak the inane quality of the visual effects. Even with the practical effects, blood doesn’t spray or gush onto a wall when a vamp victim has his throat become the main course; instead, the effect squirts on the adjacent wall like from a condiment squeezer, losing a sense of convincing value.

ScreenBound Pictures presents “Crucible of the Vampire,” a Ghost Dog Films’ production, onto an all region PAL dual format, DVD/Blu-ray home video release. The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p with a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Picture looks absolutely gorgeous with the natural color palate, but slightly stodgy with the blood red vampire vision in only a couple of brief scenes. Details are fine and textures slice through, especially in the opening segments of Isabelle walking along the river line, and in conjunction with aesthetic wide shots that monolithic structures, like an old giant tree or the Victorian home. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 LCPM uncompressed audio track is not a film that necessarily needs five channels, but does utilize them when the night churns out bumps in the darkness. The dialogue has prominence, depth, and range without breaking or interrupting the audio lineage. The staid score by Michelle Bee and Amanda Murray floundered in the lossless audio as an unfortunate miscue to reel in and hammer away the gothic vision. This release came with no bonus features in a day and age where most Blu-rays do have some sort of extra content. “Crucible of the Vampire” has earned merit in the traditional British gothic horror sub-genre that’s been flailing over the years, reinvigorating the concept of dark arts and lesbian vampires, but loses footing at crucial moments that ultimately unglues the narrative.