Starring Rebecca Calienda, Grace Courtney, and Mathilde Darmady
Written by Fionn Watts and Toby Watts
Directed by Fionn Watts and Toby Watts
There are a lot of isolated, ancient castles that look beautiful, fascinating, and have a ghost or two, but what could go wrong? Far North Film and Devilworks latest contribution Playhouse give us spectral visions of a large vast mansion in a desolate city off the coast of Scotland.
Jack Travis (William Holstead) and his daughter Bee (Grace Courtney) are contained in a large, decayed shell of a large, almost castle-like house. Jack, a known writer of macabre plays, sees it as a refuge as he pieces together a play that is a mirror into what happened in the actual house, they reside in. When Bee’s schoolmates Katie (Mathilde Darmady) and Alex (Eilidh McLaughlin), have a sleepover at the house, Alex states that the house they are in is haunted.
She tells the story of the previous owner, a Baron named Laird McKyer, who had a secret affair with his housekeeper Tabitha (who becomes pregnant with Laird’s son Allister). When Allister is older, he reveals the secret in front of Laird’s dinner guests. As punishment, Laird walls Allister into the cellar. As Allister cries for help go unanswered, he makes a pact with the devil where Allister gets his revenge on his family but must do the devil’s bidding for eternity. On a dare, Bee puts her hands to the wall to see if she can hear Allister’s cries. When she does this, strange things start to occur within the house. Coupled with a visit by the neighbors Jenny (Helen MacKay) and Callum (James Rottger), it creates a dangerous dynamic between the pair of acquaintances, unearthing new secrets and culminating in a supernatural discovery.
Scribed and visualized by brothers Fionn and Toby Watts, the duet crafts a story with tremendous atmosphere and gothic terror. Their sensibilities harken back to many of the desolate castle films of Roger Corman and Hammer Productions such as The Terror and The Curse of Frankenstein come to mind. Cinematographer Andy Toovey brings an earthy palette that enhances the dusty and grimy interiors of this decrepit and crumbling façade of a centuries-old house with all the creepiness to spare.
William Holstead as the narcissistic but troubled Jack Travis is performed with the right amount of flair as a low-rent showman coupled with the coldness and menace of a deranged, self-centered artist who would see his vision realized at any cost. Grace Courtney provides a strong performance of an angst-riddled but haunted teen Bee who wanted to be anywhere but cooped up in a creepy house. Who could blame her! Helen MacKay is wonderful as the needy but strong-willed Jenny who has a secret of her own. James Rottger is perfectly cast as the slacker trying to find a way, any way to become successful.
The minor gripe I had with the film is that I would have liked to see more specters throughout the castle as the one that reveals itself is very impressive. However, the implications of ghostly residents appease this complaint to some degree.
If you are looking for a good throwback to a grand old gothic good time, Playhouse will be a dreadful delight.