PLAYHOUSE – Film Review

After an irreverent playwright moves into a Scottish castle to develop a horror production, his daughter falls prey to an evil curse lurking within the walls.

One would be forgiven if they took a quick glance at the poster for Fionn and Toby Watts’ Playhouse and thought it looked rather terrible. Everything about it comes across as a cheesy, super low-budget disaster that was thrown together with little thought behind it. Plus it has a running time of a mere eighty-seven minutes, and for whatever reason, I find that horror films with a short running time tend to feel extremely rushed and clunky.

But surprisingly, Playhouse isn’t terrible at all. It’s not all that great mind you, but it is most definitely not as bad as it looks. Funny enough, this film doesn’t really play out like a horror movie at all, but rather a thriller/drama set within a rather creepy atmosphere, which is perhaps the movie’s best aspect. Fionn and Toby Watts did an excellent job at making Playhouse feel dreary and gloomy throughout its entirety, but it becomes a problem when you realize that all the atmosphere and tension ultimately leads to nowhere.

And it takes far too long for there to be any sort of scares whatsoever in the story. There was one part of the movie that dragged on for so long, so I decided to check how long I was into the movie and it was forty-three minutes. Keep in mind, that’s forty-three minutes of nothing but talking and unfortunately, a lot of these talking scenes feel disappointingly flat and meaningless.

Courtesy of Devilworks

The real movie doesn’t kick in until about sixty minutes or so, but by then, it’s a prime example of too little too late. I’m not sure why the Watts siblings didn’t pad this film with an occasional creepy moment or two in order to keep the audience on their feet, because there are some instances in which the film can be a bit of a chore to watch, which is a big shame considering how truly atmospheric it is.

That and the fact that each and every actor gives their all in their respective performance. Grace Courtney and William Holstead, in particular, feel incredibly raw and unhinged in their roles, and when the script asks them to do something extreme (which sadly isn’t too often), they commit to it one-hundred-percent, and it was obvious that they had a blast making the movie and bringing their characters to life.

I just wish that this movie as a whole could have had that much life injected into it. Playhouse often feels like it is potentially building to something grandiose, but it really isn’t. It’s a movie that drags for the most part, and when it finally commits to the horror genre, it’s fun to watch and the horror scenes are fun, but they come too late into the story for you to genuinely care anymore.

Overall Grade: C-

MPAA Rating: N/A

Cast: Rebecca Calienda, Grace Courtney, Mathilde Darmady, Julie Higginson, William Holstead, Helen Mackay, Eilidh McLaughlin, James Rottger

Directed by: Fionn Watts, Toby Watts

Distributed by: Devilworks

Release Date: November 17, 2020

Running Time: 87 minutes

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