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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Review: Playhouse

Director: Fionn Watts and Toby Watts

Screenplay: Fionn Watts and Toby Watts

Year: 2020

Bee’s father is a famous writer, and they both move to an old castle, where the writer will work on his next play. The castle holds dark secrets about awful events that took place years ago. Bee accidentally awakens the evil forces that inhabit the castle, and now they are prey to the curse that lives in its walls. 

The beginning of “Playhouse” leads to thinking that this is a movie with plenty of potential. The gorgeous cinematography and how the plot starts to develop, and the superb acting from the protagonist Grace Courtney (“Holby City”) are enough material to create high expectations about the film. However, its slow-burn style never garners any rhythm and drops to the floor the related expectations, only managing to be a disappointment.

As mentioned, the cinematography is the high remark of “Playhouse”. The movie was filmed in a remote Scottish location that stands out with its beauty, and every scene captures its essence. The location, as well as the look of the castle, serve to create the intimidating atmosphere that accompanies this movie and that is encouraged by its slow rhythm.

Slow burn horror movies usually seek to generate an oppressive atmosphere that keeps growing in intensity until it reaches an explosive third act or a revelation. The debuting director Fionn Watts and Toby Watts seek to do that, but they are not successful. The atmosphere’s intensity feels fairly constant throughout the movie, and when the explosive moment comes, it fails to impress. As a consequence, the film, in general, feels flat.

Another problem “Playhouse” has is how it develops its plot. The theme of the presumably haunted castle and the story behind its curse is not bad at all, but the way in which the plot develops and how information is revealed can be confusing. Part of the confusion is with the purpose that the viewer cannot make out if the curse is real or who it is affecting, but even with a small cast, we don’t get to know the characters well enough as for their personalities and decisions to be of any help to us for untangling the mystery.

Movies with wasted potential are our day to day in the horror genre, and “Playhouse” is another movie to join that list this year. Its generic story and its slow and confusing development don’t allow the viewer to engage with the plot or the characters. Even worse, it doesn’t have a redeemable outcome for how slow it is.

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