of Horror (British 1969, dir: Viktors Ritelis; cast: Michael
Gough, Yvonne Mitchell, Sharon Gurney, Simon Gough, aka The Corpse, The
of Horror is about a mother and daughter who kill their husband/father,
who then comes back to haunt them.
this, because several film guides say so. I don't know how they all
know this, as I was thoroughly confused, but it's as good an explanation
I am not alone in my confusion. To paraphrase Movie Macabre's Elvira at film's end: "Well, that's the end... I guess because the cameraman
'Hey, we shot enough film for a movie.' So the director said, 'Okay,
let's stop shooting'."
any movie when Elvira's putdowns actually prove cogent.
of Horror is not so bad. It's tense and enjoyable. It just makes no sense.
Gough is the stern father, lording over his household. When his 16-year-old
daughter (a lovely Sharon Gurney, looking older because, no doubt, she
is) steals, Gough horsewhips her with a switch, leaving deep red scars. She's a bad girl, and as Gough is not one to spare the rod, this is a repeated
ritual. During the beatings, Gough's wife (Yvonne Mitchell) cowers
in another room. His son (Simon Gough) obliviously boogies to his
music (using headsets to drown out sis's screams).
leaves Sharon's room, Simon eagerly pops out to ask: "What's sis done
enjoys sis's repeated comeupance. He also avoids the switch. He's a strapping young lad following Gough into the insurance business,
the pride of his dad's loins.
one particularly nasty beating, mother and daughter resolve to kill Gough. And they do, apparently. Or maybe not. Gough's corpse keeps
popping up in odd places. But not till late in the film, and even
then we're not certain if it's under his own volition, or if it's
being moved. And then things only get ever muddier...
have to watch and decide for yourself if any of this makes sense. Now that I've clued you in, maybe it'll make some sense as you watch.
of Horror is nicely atmospheric in portraying the English suburbs
and countryside, although for most of the film one gets the impression
one is watching a suspense thriller rather than a horror film. Gough
provides the standout performance as the father. Especially chilling
(and funny, in an extremely dark sense) is his serenity before and after
his savage beatings. Discussing mundane trivia as though nothing
of any import has occurred. Calm demeanor, placid voice, unruffled
absent from breakfast, Gough nonchalantly asks, "Where's Jane?" An innocent question that carries dread for the mother and viewer, as we
know what may follow. Or not. Gough is ever calm, and not every
transgression is met with ferocity. No telling which innocent question
precedes his fury.
confusing and slow-moving, Crucible
of Horror has its defenders. In Fragments
of Fear: An Illustrated History of British Horror Films, Andy
Boot calls the film "interesting," adding: "While the script was nothing
to write home about, the performances from Gough,
Sharon Gurney, and Yvonne Mitchell are all strong, and the director shows
some imagination in the handling of the subject, with good use of unusual
Fair enough. But one can also sympathize with John Stanley, who in his Creature
Featuresmovie guide describes
the film as: "A viewing crucible." At least Stanley knew what
the film was about: "a spirit wreaking revenge." Or a corpse. Or something like that. I only wonder who clued in Stanley.
to handle obscurity is to look for a theme. Themes elevate the obscure
into the profound. The Overlook
Encyclopedia says the film: "could be seen as an allegory
indicating that killing a patriarch doesn't eliminate patriarchy." Okay. That'll work.
I still think Elvira was nearest the truth. The poor vampress was
befuddled throughout the film because it was a befuddling film. And
to her credit, she had the courage of her convictions, looking beyond themes,
and simply pronouncing that the emperor had no clothes.
of Horror is not a bad film, but better if you read about it
seeing it. That way, you'll know what the film's about as you view
it. Also, not to be confused with another British horror film, Crucible
of Terror (1971).
Review copyright by Thomas
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