Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

31 Days of Halloween: Crucible of Horror

Crucible of Horror is such an unimportant film that it doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. The link at the beginning of that sentence? Goes to IMDB. IMDB and I had a falling out a couple of years ago, and we don't talk much any more.

I did not hate Crucible of Horror, but if I had more time, I would review something else. Netflix recommended it based on movies I actually like and the cast looked promising. I say all of this upfront because I don't want to be responsible for anyone else's wasted evening. I'm going to ruin the ending for you, too.

Written and directed by people you haven't heard of, the film stars Michael Gough, who looks like he should have played a Vulcan on Star Trek--but didn't. Gough plays Walter Eastwood, a rich banker who happens to be an abusive and overbearing husband and father. Meals at the Eastwood house are an unpleasant affair. Walter cooly insults his wife Edith, reads and discards his daughter Jane's mail, and praises his son Rupert. Outside of the dinner table, beatings are shown and incest is implied.

Edith and Jane cannot take it anymore. They can't. The beatings, the insults, the shouted orders--it's too much. Can't take it. Not anymore. No. It's time to kill father. We have to, Jane. I--there's nothing else to be done. I can't see any way around it. We have to kill him.

The family owns at least two homes, and Walter spends a substantial amount of time in the other one. One evening while Walter is enjoying classical music in the study of the second home, Edith holds him at shotgunpoint while Jane stops his record.

"What on earth are you doing with that thing?" he asks. "Kindly restart the record."

"No," says Edith. "We want to talk."

Walter is unwilling to talk, and that's okay--they don't really want to talk, either. Jane mixes poison into his drink, they make sure he's good and dead, and then concoct and arrange a plausible suicide scene. Then they go home to wait. And wait. And wait.

The plan was to kill Walter and leave the corpse somewhere where Edith and Jane might not be expected to look, so that someone else, on noting Walter's absence, might check up on him and find the body. Nobody does, though, so Edith and Jane decide to phone Rupert, who reminds them that Walter was to be out of town for a few days.

They decide to check up on the body, and find it missing. They recover it--somewhere they didn't expect to find it--and decide to be rid of it once and for all by packing it into a wooden crate and rolling it down a secluded cliff.

The next morning, Edith and Jane go downstairs and discover Walter calmly enjoying his breakfast. He exchanges terse pleasantries with them, opens and reads a letter from one of Jane's suitors, comments unfavorably on the boy's grammar, and tears the letter in half. Roll credits.

Perhaps this movie is supposed to be a puzzle, or an examination of Edith's descent into madness. Perhaps the events of the film occur mostly in her head. Perhaps screenwriter Olaf Pooley had a point, but I fear that he may not have. I fear that Crucible of Horror isn't meant to provoke questions or have any deeper meaning. That's fine; with most movies, what you see is what you get. But most movies (even the bad ones) tell a better story than this one. This story ends at what should be an act break, or the jumping-off point of the rest of the movie. Netflix sells this as a horror film, and says "[the] conspiracy to kill Walter backfires when his corpse comes back from the grave, seeking revenge." If this is a revenge-from-beyond-the-grave story, it's told very poorly.

Interesting fact about the film: Rupert and Jane are played by Michael Gough's real-life son and his wife, which means that Sharon Gurney (who played Jane) got to do a couple of nude scenes with her father-in-law. So that's awkward.

Doesn't surprise me in the least that I couldn't find a trailer--I don't think anyone remembers this one.
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