After years of terrifying audiences, enfant terrible, horror playwright Jack Travis (William Holstead) buys a haunted Scottish castle and moves in with his pouty emo teenage daughter Bee (Grace Courtney).

Bee’s less than impressed by the wind-swept, desolate Scottish countryside but Jack finds inspiration in the castle’s bloody history of an evil landowner and the son he bullied who made a pact with the Devil in order to take revenge on his vicious father, drawing on the tawdry, gory details for his latest play, a fourth wall-breaking, Punchdrunk-style, immersive piece he intends to stage in his new home.

But as Jack’s becomes enthralled by his research, the evil that lives in the castle’s walls consumes him, threatening to destroy him and his daughter…

Atmospherically shot by accident in a castle so cold you can see the actors’ breath mist, a happy accident of location shooting and not having a decent generator, Playhouse is something of an achievement for co-writer/directors and brothers Toby and Fionn Watts who have managed to craft a film devoid of wit, intelligence, invention or anything even approaching a scare, where the best performance comes from a guy who’s in Gary Tank Commander and their main character is a rich arsehole, enfant terrible, horror playwright with a nebulous plan to stage a piece of immersive theatre in a deserted Highland castle.

A horror playwright? That’s not even a thing, is it? I’ve worked in theatres for years and I’ve never met a horror playwright, let alone a rich one. Admittedly, I’ve met one or two arseholes. But playwrights just don’t make the kinda bank that allows them to buy a Scottish castle. That’s why Through The Keyhole tends to feature Kimberley Walsh rather than Jez Butterworth. And while Punchdrunk might be able to take over the old Granada building and collaborate with the BBC, Damon Albarn and Adam Curtis on a piece for the Manchester International Festival or Secret Cinema can recreate the Casbah for a screening of Back to The Future it’s obvious the Brothers Watts have never been in a theatre since they saw Aladdin in panto at Wick Assembly Rooms when they were kids because there’s no way the kinda theatre goers who are into immersive, durational pieces are going to travel to John O’Groats for some drama students chewing the scenery in a semi-derelict castle. The CGI demons that assail Jack are more believable than that shit.

I’m not a huge fan of TV comedy Peep Show. Partly because I have a sense of humour. And partly because I just want to punch David Mitchell in his smug Oxbridge chops. And as for Robert Webb? I would merrily take a cheese grater to him. But there is one episode where Mitchell and Webb go to the theatre and realise: “Why aren’t we watching television? I’ve got Heat on DVD at home. We’re watching this, when for less money we could be watching Robert de Niro and Al Pacino.”

 The worst thing about Playhouse is I’d rather be watching Heat on DVD.

Arrow Video Frightfest Digital Review: Playhouse
1.5Overall Score
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