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  Playhouse There's Something In The Walls
Year: 2020
Director: Fionn Watts, Toby Watts
Stars: William Holstead, Grace Courtney, Helen Mackay, James Rottger, Rebecca Calienda, Mathilde Darmady, Julie Higginson, Eilidh McLaughlin
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jack Travis (William Holstead) and his teenage daughter Bee (Grace Courtney) have moved into this remote Scottish castle in Caithness where he is more at home than she is. It is his plan to continue his writing there in perfect seclusion with no distractions, the crashing waves on the seashore and bleak landscape lashed by high winds an ideal location to fuel his imagination. With a play in mind, his story is to be based on something that supposedly happened in the castle three generations ago when the laird went mad and walled up his maid, who had fallen pregnant with his baby, but that self-same tale is something the petulant Bee finds very disturbing. She doesn't want to be there at all, and is not afraid to let others know it...

Although she is afraid of the possibility that there may be a dead body in the walls of her new abode, because that makes sense, so why doesn't Jack see that? When he is introduced, he is in playful mood, acting the goat for his unimpressed daughter, but as time goes on he starts to act out his play, putting on what he believes is the laird's voice - or has he become possessed by an unquiet spirit, this one happening to be evil? Could it be that Bee has been affected the same way? Playhouse was all very mysterious, a curious mixture of domestic drama and creepy horror, though there was far more of the former in the first hour than there was in the last act, as the story found its feet and concocted some very pleasing fright sequences to lead up to the finale.

The creators here were Fionn Watts and Toby Watts, two British brothers with a connection to Scotland, as evinced by their obvious feel for the place in the manner the countryside was used throughout, never mind the isolated, built to last buildings we see dotted around the area. The Travis family (mother has apparently left them long before) are not alone out there - no, not ghosts, but a couple up from Glasgow to renovate a late relative's cottage, Jenny (Helen Mackay) and Callum (James Rottger), who like their immediate neighbours are getting testy in this lonely site, either through lack of stimulation or because no matter how much they try to create - Jack his play, Jenny and Callum their spruced-up cottage - the heavy atmosphere of the place drags them down to the level of bickering children, which technically Bee is.

When she invites a pair of not-really-friends over from school for a sleepover in the castle, she spends the evening whingeing at them cattily, until they hit inspiration and wander over to the wall behind which is supposed to be the trapped maid, who happens to be related to Jenny. What happens next is not entirely clear, either there is some presence that freaks them out or the power of their imagination overwhelms them, but as this progresses you will be questioning just about everything you see: whose perspective is this from? Is there something in the theme of unfinished business that extends to the activities of the dead? Is the isolation warping the character's, as in The Shining, or is there an actual malign influence that could have potentially deadly consequences abroad in the castle? Despite those queries not being entirely answered to your satisfaction, the Watts Brothers worked up a tone of encroaching dread, offset by a sardonic distance, that managed legitimately unsettling imagery, as if in a nightmare. Music by Dan Baboulene.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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