Crucible of Horror aka The Corpse
Director: Viktors Ritelis
Stars: Michael Gough, Yvonne Mitchell, Sharon Gurney
This abysmal piece of crap was on one of the Mill Creek DVD collections I received for my birthday – this would be the Pure Terror 50 Movie set. Crucible of Horror (as its called in this collection) is alternatively titled as The Corpse. That latter title is actually a better description because this movie features neither a crucible nor any kind of horror but there is a corpse in it. It’s a miserable little horror film from the UK full of bad editing, pathetic and cliched storytelling and some of the most wooden performances I’ve ever seen. Thank GOD I made it through this movie on the first sitting because this is the kind of movie that can cure insomnia. I really wasn’t expecting much because it is a public domain movie on one of these discount sets – they really aren’t known for the fantastic quality of their films. Sitting through this movie, however, was a chore I did not expect. I suppose I would be obligated to say that this review contains SPOILERS – but the movie makes no attempt to create suspense and is woefully predictable so what would be the point?
The movie starts off by simply showing you how boring it is: Nondescript music plays as a man strolls through his garden. This man, as we later find out, is Walter Eastwood – played by Michael Gough who most people may immediately recognize as Alfred from the Batman films (The Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher eras of the franchise). That’s revealed later, however. For the overlong and uneventful span of the opening credits he’s just a guy wandering through his garden. Finally he prunes one flower and the music makes a sharp jump at this – as if it’s supposed to be something scary or significant. HOLY SHIT! HE TRIMMED A BUSH! THE HORROR! This is the kind of drab fuckery that passes for entertainment during the first half of the film.
There’s a bit of drama as it’s discovered that Jane stole some money from the nearby country club. There’s some intimation that she had some sort of sexual innuendo with the guy that runs the place. He kisses her, asks about seeing her again and she just gives some cocktease response. Since this is NEVER explored I have to wonder why it was even brought up in the first place? It doesn’t add anything to Jane’s character nor does it advance the story because the guy is there to rat on Jane regardless – so why have this stupid interaction that amounts to nothing?! Anyway, Walter pays back the money Jane stole and then beats the hell out of her to get it back. Actually – I did get a kick out of watching this beating – how often is it that you get to see Batman’s Alfred whipping a teenage girl? Does it make the movie better? Not really. Does it make the movie worth watching? Again, not really.
Jane and her mother Edith decide the only way they can obtain their freedom is by killing Walter. Of course they could also obtain their freedom just by, I don’t know, LEAVING THE HOUSE?! I mean it’s not like their chained up all day. In fact, Jane usually leaves for school or to hang out with her friends everyday – they can just walk out if they wanted to. There’s a boy down the street that’s obsessed with Jane, always writing her love letters. He’s got a job, she could just elope with that guy if she was desperate enough to get out of that house. Nope, we have to jump right to murder being the ONLY possible option. What the fuck is this shit.., a Lifetime movie?
Eidth and Jane’s plan consists of going out to the family cottage where Walter is spending his weekend. They drug his drink to knock him out and then, using a funnel, pour more and more poisoned liquor into him. They toss his body into bed and make it look like he just happened to die of natural causes. Of course all of this is preceded by Edith telling Walter about how she and Jane have been reading the Marquis De Sade. Walter’s typically misogynistic response is “Women?! Reading BOOKS?!” This whole Marquis De Sade conversation pissed me off though – it really gives the impression that they are going to torture Walter but all they do is just poison him. Marquis De Sade’s writings are very brutal depections of torture and sexual sadism – why bother having this conversation if NOTHING is going to become of it. Again, this movie just wanders around aimlessly – creating plot threads that it never even intends to follow through on.
After the murder Edith starts having these bullshit dreams. She’s in a forest dancing around with some forest lady that looks like her. Stupid music plays and then it ends with bloodshed. What the hell does these dreams mean? I don’t even think the filmmakers know what direction they were going with this. Addtionally, there’s also real quick flashbacks Jane has of being abused by her father. This abuse was already firmly established during the uneventful first half of the movie. Why bother reitierating that fact after the murder. Just pointless filler? Trying desperately to add some artistic flair to the film because the story really isn’t going anywhere?
The girls eventually go back out to cottage and find that Walter’s body is no longer in bed. Instead he’s somehow been placed in a crate on the back porch. The women make NO effort to find out who moved the body – they just dump it in a lake and move on. More dreams and more stupid flashbacks later we find out that Walter isn’t dead. the body in the crate was a fake and he just comes home. This is made to be scary by jump cutting to random shots but it just looks like a stupid failure. The next morning life just goes on normally as if this whole murder thing never happened. Walter reads the mail, discusses business with Rupert and generally mocks the stupid women. Jane and Edith are just left staring blankly into space and looking depressed at their failure to obtain freedom as the men go to work. Again, I have to point out that if these women wanted their freedom so badly they could just WALK OUT THE FUCKING DOOR!
I hated hated HATED this stupid movie! The whole story felt like a retread of any given EC Comic: “Characters kill somebody but is that somebody really dead?” Edith and Jane just pissed me off the whole time – playing up this melodrama as if their lives were just oh so horrible that they had no choice but to murder Walter. What a bunch of bullshit! There was not a thing stopping them from just walking out the door and never looking back if they wanted to be free of Walter so bad. The simple fact that Jane stole some money and just bought some clothes instead of financing an escape just proves how fucking empty these characters are. I assume they wanted their freedom BUT also wanted the security of the house and maybe some life insurance? That’s not a fight for freedom, it’s just petty greed and a retarded motivation for the characters. If money was all they wanted then the story should have just been about money. there was never a moment where I felt motivated about these characters and their fight to get freedom. On top of that, every single plot point was telegraphed poorly. Some may call that foreshadowing – but this movie is as subtle as a sledgehammer with what it thinks is foreshadowing. The movie bogs itself down with unnecessary and often contradictory character development and dream imagery that goes nowhere and really serves no earthly purpose.
Avoid this movie. Please. There is no entertainment here – not even in the so bad its good category. This is just dull people doing dull and stupid shit. Crucible of Horror will scar your brain. Good thing it’s in the public domain because there is NOBODY that deserves to earn money from residuals on this piece of crap.