Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Playhouse

My notes on Playhouse

Playwright Jack Travis (William Holstead), who specialises in terrifying audiences, buys a castle in Scotland (an impressive location) with a tragic history and moves there with his sulky goth teen daughter Belith (Grace Courtney), who prefers to go by ‘Bee’, with a view to creating an immersive on-site horror experience spun out of local legends and ghost stories.  The closest neighbouring property is a cottage teachers Jenny (Helen Mackay) and Callum (James Rottger) are supposed to be clearing up for sale – though Jenny, who has inherited the place, seems as reluctant to leave as Callum is to take down some unsightly sheds.

This bleak gothic tale, written and directed by Fionn and Toby Watts, has an archly comic side in that all of the characters are supposed to be intent on tasks they very obviously aren’t getting very far with – as they’re sucked into a vortex that seems to have been created by very bad things which happened involving Jenny’s great-grandmother and the then-laird of this remote fastness.  Also, both couples constantly snipe at each other (or whoever else hoves in view), make assumptions about what’s wanted of them, and set out to sabotage everyone else’s projects.

It’s underplayed, but there’s a farcical side to many of the confrontations, notably Jack’s response to Callum’s sudden appearance with a handful of scribbled pages and a declaration that he’s decided to write a play too.  The overall tone, though, is doom-haunted as a spectral figure (augmented by understated CGI) stalks the castle, ancient tragedies are replayed with variations, and no one seems likely to walk away happy.  It has a great, dour, widescreen look and the performances have real attack – though none of the central quartet of characters are people you’d want to be around, and it’s a wonder they don’t get slapped more often than they do.  The Wattses don’t go in for jump scares, but so spring a couple of genuinely chilling moments.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.


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