“Can you explain to me why six people would be killed each year on this particular date?”
[aka The Amityville Playhouse aka Amityville Theatre aka The Amityville Theater]
Director: John R. Walker
Starring: Monèle LeStrat, John R. Walker, Linden Baker, Logan Russell, Kennie Benoit, Hollie Anne Kornik, Eva Kwok, Gary Martin, Ania Marson, Tiana Diehl, Spencer Banks, Cheryl Burfield
Screenplay: Steve Hardy, based upon a story by Steve Hardy and John R. Walker
Synopsis: After class, teacher Victor Stewart (John R. Walker) detains Fawn Harriman (Monèle LeStrat) to ask after her wellbeing: Fawn has recently lost both her parents, and is now living with her aunt and uncle. The conversation shifts to Fawn’s inheritance of an old theatre in Amityville. She tells Mr Stewart that she and her friends will be spending the weekend there to examine the property. Fawn keeps an appointment with attorney Dorothy Felix (Tiana Diehl), who presses her to agree to the sale of the old building, telling her that it was what her parents had been planning and offering to manage the entire transaction. She further tells Fawn that the building is in poor condition, having been neglected for many years. However, Fawn sticks to her plan of seeing for herself. Mrs Felix gives her a set of keys, the building’s alarm codes and instructions as to how to turn on the power, also offering to hire a surveyor to inspect the property. As soon as Fawn has gone, the attorney puts through a call to the mayor of Amityville… Fawn joins her boyfriend, Kyle Blaker (Linden Baker), and the two drive to the theatre, where they plan to meet Indira Divani (Eva Kwok), Fawn’s best friend, Kyle’s brother, Jevan (Logan Russell), and his friend, Matt Darnell (Kennie Benoit). The five locate two dressing-rooms to sleep in, with Jevan irritating Kyle by suggesting that Fawn and Indy occupy one and the three boys the other. As Fawn and Jevan talk, she tells him that Mr Stewart has promised to research the history of the theatre. The five then split up to explore the building, Fawn with Kyle, Indy with Matt, and Jevan, angry and frustrated as a result of Kyle’s relentless taunting, on his own. His first discovery is a squat, occupied by Wendy Shardlow (Hollie Anne Kornik). Wendy is belligerent at first, but Jevan calms her down; insisting, however, that she ask Fawn’s permission to stay on in the building. Meanwhile, Indy and Matt have made their way up into the Circle. As they turn back, a screaming figure plunges past them to the ground below. Rushing to the railing, they stare down in horror at Fawn’s broken body, but by the time they run downstairs, there is nothing there. Someone laughs at them mockingly from the balcony above; someone who looks like Fawn… Matt and Indy’s panicked cries bring the others to the scene. Assuming that a cruel prank has been played, Indy attacks Fawn while Matt abuses Kyle, but both deny they were anywhere near the scene. The group reunites; Jevan introduces Wendy, whose hostile demeanour does not endear her to the others. As a gesture of peace, Jevan offers to order pizza. However, no-one can get a phone signal. Fawn and Kyle return to the stage-door to go outside, but find it locked—and they are unable to get it open. Jevan takes over from Kyle and begins to struggle with the door. Suddenly, in a voice not his own, he cries out, “It wants us to die…!”
Comments: 2015 saw the release of not one but two Amityville sequels, Amityville Playhouse and Amityville Death House. Deciding which to examine first found me feeling less like a kid in a candy store and more like the Fair Rosamund, trying to choose between the dagger and the cup of poison. Rosamund chose the poison and so, apparently, did I, inasmuch as watching Amityville Playhouse was very much like sitting and waiting to die, with agonising pain giving way to a slow, suffocating numbness…
Technically speaking, Death House should have been first, since it went direct-to-DVD in February, whereas Playhouse had its limited theatrical release in April (“limited” in the sense that, according to actor-writer-director John R. Walker, he and the film’s producers were literally the only people who went to see it). However, learning that, like The Amityville Asylum, Playhouse had a British background, I was sufficiently intrigued to give it the nod; wondering how its makers were going to disguise their origins and/or work them into the story.
The answer to the first part of that is that they tried a compromise: they shot the film predominantly in Canada, in the town of Neepawa, in Manitoba; meaning that while accents are (generally) less of an issue here, the look and feel of the film is just “off” enough to draw attention to itself.
And the answer to the second part is—something we’ll consider at length a bit later on.
Despite what the synopsis above tells you, Amityville Playhouse opens with a scene that does succeed in setting the tone for all that follows, given that it involves someone wandering around in the dark for much longer than necessary before being attacked by something we don’t see. Later on it becomes evident that this scene has been shifted from where it should have occurred within the narrative. The appearance of some intrusive Amityville signage seems the only explanation for the move, which otherwise only confuses the issue when we immediately (though without warning) switch locales.
The film’s not-Amityville scenes are set in Dannemora, in upper New York State: a very curious geographical choice, one I can only assume was made for production reasons; maybe the local big-wigs insisted on the town being named in exchange for permission to film? And the screenplay actually tells the viewer where it is, which makes the casual back-and-forthing between Amityville and not-Amityville more than a little ridiculous.
It has advertisements up for films, opera and a concert…but no plays.
(A quick web-search reveals that Dannemora is over 350 miles away from Amityville, about five-and-a-half hours by road in good conditions. Yet the characters all manage to arrive in Amityville in broad daylight, after starting from Dannemora at the end of a school day.)
The film proper begins with a scene in school, with Fawn Harriman being kept back by her geography teacher Mr Stewart, not for wrongdoing, but so that he can check on her welfare—Fawn’s parents, whom he knew, having recently died.
Victor Stewart is played by John R. Walker, who keeps his own English accent (this isn’t the only way he indulges himself, as we shall see). Stewart has heard about Fawn’s inheritance of a theatre in Amityville, and now learns that she and her friends are planning a weekend sleepover there, to allow her to inspect the property. For his own part, Stewart offers to research the building’s history; he and Fawn agree to compare notes the following Monday.
This is one of many half-baked ideas in the film. If you look quick, there’s a sign on the theatre declaring it a heritage building, so it might indeed have a history; but since neither Fawn nor Stewart know anything about the place beyond the mere fact of its existence, why would he react like that? – let alone devote an entire weekend to the project?
(And the answer to that is, to set up a padding subplot so egregious, it makes the replayed footage in Crash! look like masterly film-making.)
The other notable point of this conversation is Stewart’s dismayed reaction to Fawn’s mention of her boyfriend, Kyle Blaker, which prompts Fawn to defend him:
Amityville Surveyors: so efficient, they get there before you call them!
Fawn: “Kyle’s cool; people have the wrong idea about him.”
No. No, they don’t.
We’re used to finding unlikeable characters in horror movies, but Kyle Blaker goes so far beyond “unlikeable” it’s almost incomprehensible. The only point of comparison I can come up with is Mekhi Phifer’s Tyrell Martin in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, a character so obnoxious I spent most of the film writhing in agony whenever he opened his mouth and pleading with a psycho-killer to do the world a favour and butcher him like a hog. Likewise here: Kyle is a stupid, hateful, foul-mouthed waste of space—so what exactly is Fawn supposed to see in him? The screenplay gives us nothing. In fact, on the evidence presented, Fawn barely tolerates him, while everyone else justifiably loathes him, including his own brother. So why are they hanging out with him? More to the point, why do screenwriters inflict characters like this on their audience? Do they want us to turn their film off five minutes in? – because honestly, I can’t imagine anyone less OCD than me putting themselves through the misery of listening to this (to use the film’s own favourite term for him) douche.
And we’re not kept long in suspense about Kyle’s dominant character trait, either. He and Fawn meet at a diner, where she tells him about her conversation with the attorney, Dorothy Felix, who is administering her parents’ estate. (Later we gather that Fawn and Kyle must already have driven to Amityville, but it certainly isn’t clear at the time.) Fawn remarks that she found some of what Mrs Felix said to her a bit odd, particularly a comment about her parents being, “Gone, too.”
Kyle: “Who cares? Bitch was probably shit-faced.”
That jarring (and completely inexplicable) response was enough to dissipate the mildly positive feelings the opening minutes had managed to generate, via its enthusiastic if unavailing efforts to convince us that we’re in the US. American flags hang everywhere; while a stars-and-stripes-laden placard for the Amityville mayoral election is almost the first thing we see.
“And now— Deploy the amber waves of grain!”
Even Kyle contributes (it’s the film’s one enjoyable Kyle moment, so make the most of it), as he and Fawn read the menu at the diner:
Kyle: “I wonder if they have CHICKEN-FRIED STEAK here.”
In another odd structural choice, Fawn’s description of her meeting with Mrs Felix gives way to a flashback of it—why would you not just have the scene, then have her commenting on it? Mrs Felix presses Fawn to go ahead with the sale of the theatre which, she tells her, her parents were arranging, and offers to manage the entire business. Her manner begins to annoy Fawn, who stubbornly insists on inspecting the property herself, and demands the keys. However, she also realises that she does need the attorney’s help, and asks what the process would be if she wished to proceed with the sale. Mrs Felix tells her that first she needs to get the building surveyed, and offers to arrange it, to which Fawn agrees. Once the girl has gone, however, Mrs Felix’s first phonecall is to the mayor of Amityville…
(It is the surveyor who enters the theatre and is, presumably, killed there during the opening scene—whuh?)
We next find Fawn and Kyle arriving at the theatre—where we briefly hear – gasp!! – a fly buzzing—and we might as well deal with the elephant in the living-room right away: despite the film’s original title, the word “playhouse” is used nowhere in the script; its solitary appearance is on the banner strung across the front of the real Roxy Theatre of Neepawa by the film’s production designers. So why not just Amityville Theatre??
(In fact one British blog-piece from 2015 indicates that the film did carry that title during its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it theatrical run.)
Save a little of the eye-rolling for later, sweetie, you’re gunna need it.
The sleepover at the theatre turns out to have been Kyle’s idea. He clearly has other ideas, too, which Fawn puts the kibosh on:
Fawn: “Nothing’s going to happen, okay? Nothing.”
Brother, she ain’t kidding.
After much irritating foot-dragging and back-and-forth sniping, Fawn and Kyle get the door open, the alarm off and the lights on. Their friends then show up and, oh boy—
It’s very evident very quickly that no individual connected with this film is ever going to win any major acting awards; while the ensemble non-acting turns Amityville Playhouse into a grim endurance test. Monèle LeStrat as Fawn gets the worst of it, just because she has the most dialogue. Even granting Fawn’s subdued state-of-mind, LeStrat’s breathy monotone becomes ever-more exasperating; her constant eye-rolling gets old, too. Kennie Benoit as Matt, conversely, comes off best for having the least dialogue – he’s the group’s Silent Bob – with about 90% of what he does say consisting of, “I don’t know.” Linden Baker as Kyle we’ve dealt with; while Eva Kwok as Indy almost matches him for annoyance in that she does nothing but shriek and whine (oh, and tell us how boring everything is, as if we needed telling). Logan Russell as Jevan wins at least some good-will purely for that fact that 90% of his dialogue consists of him bellowing, “Shut UP, Kyle!!”
Once the gang has assembled, we get the obligatory my-phone’s-not-working scene out of the way in quick order, then settle down for some of the most numbingly dull non-action I’ve struggled through in some considerable time. Briefly, the kids locate two dressing-rooms and divvy them up for sleeping in; Kyle says, “Airhead, geek, gay, fag, fuck, fuck, ass-wipe, butt-head, butt-head, creep, bullshit”, with a bare minimum of linking words; the five split up to search following a welter of unfunny Scooby Doo references; Jevan discovers a squatter called Wendy who is supposed to be homeless but seems to have unlimited funds to spend on her hair and makeup; and, in a sadly brief relief from the tedium, Indy sees a shadowy figure, while Fawn hears distant music.
When all else fails – and trust me, it does – there’s always the Dutch angle.
Did I say tedium? The main plot is bad enough but, to paraphrase Donald Pleasence in Halloween II, you don’t know what tedium is—not until you’ve seen what Amityville Playhouse serves up by way of padding.
We’ve already followed Mr Stewart to the bookstore, where he finds a couple of general books on local history but nothing specific enough for his purposes. The store owner suggests that he try the library instead, an idea which seems to take the high-school teacher by surprise. He gets into his car and drives at a speed considerably below the limit until he reaches a level crossing, where he sits while the world’s longest freight-train rolls by.
Eventually we get a flashback to Mr Stewart’s last day in England, most of which he spent at the Furzedown. Long, slow conversations take place about the unlikelihood of Mr Stewart finding satisfactory beer in the US of A, and the perceived oddity of a successful palaeontologist living with her nephew, a minister, before we fade back to see the last of the freight-train.
And then – presumably because the film-makers were afraid our hearts couldn’t stand any more excitement – we cut back to the theatre for one of the few decent scenes in this pointless mess, as Indy and Matt think they see Fawn plunging to her death from the heights of the Circle, only for her broken body to vanish before they can get down to it, and for a strange, Fawn-like figure to laugh down at them from the balcony.
Matt and Indy’s cries bring the others to the scene: they think Kyle was responsible, Kyle (once introduced) thinks Wendy was. Fawn isn’t happy about her unauthorised entrance of the theatre, but Jevan persuades her to let Wendy stay, at least over the weekend, much to Kyle’s disgust (and accompanying editorialisation).
Kyle’s over-the-top reaction to Wendy is one of this film’s most puzzling aspects. Not-Amityville must be a stiflingly conservative little burg, if Wendy’s vaguely Goth-y appearance is enough to make her seem completely freakish.
A brief truce is called to allow the ordering of pizza, only for (of course) no-one’s phone to be working. The kids try to go outside to make their call, but they can’t get the door open—with Jevan’s effort ending with him cutting his hand open, and crying out in a voice not his own, “They’ve sealed us in! They’ve left us to die!”
Then he snaps out of it, and while Kyle is busy accusing “that freak” of tampering with the door, Fawn takes Jevan into a washroom to clean his injury; only when the blood washes away there’s no cut…
Since all the doors and windows except the stage-door are boarded up, Wendy leads the others down into the basement, where the grate through which she entered the building is located. As Kyle tries and fails to get the grate open again, and the always-irritating Indy shrieks and whines, Jevan has another weird episode, drawing his brother’s wrath. Kyle is convinced that someone is pranking them, probably friends of Wendy; while as for Jevan’s behaviour, “That’s easy to explain: he’s an asshole.”
Much tiresome circular argument follows, enlivened only by Wendy’s admission that she, too, has sometimes heard music in the theatre. Yet again they decide to split up and search, this time for signs someone else has been in the building.
And then it’s time to visit with Mr Stewart as he drives towards Amityville, where the 40 speed-limit is clearly someone’s idea of a joke. THRILL!! as we go slowly and carefully over a speed-bump. GASP!! as Mr Stewart arrives at the library only to find that it’s closed and he’ll have to come back another time.
And then, omigod, something almost kind of happens!! While Fawn and Kyle are searching, the former passes through some doors to find herself in the theatre proper—complete with an audience in their seats and someone singing opera on the stage (the music she and Wendy have been hearing). One person turns her head to look at Fawn – then they all do, including the singer – and then, suddenly, they’re on their feet and surrounding her.
Insanity and suicide were really the only sensible response…
“You okay? I heard you scream,” says Kyle from six inches away, as Fawn finds herself back outside the doors. Curiously, she reports to him that her mysterious companions were, “Pointing at me and screaming”, which they weren’t. Nothing so lively.
Aaaaand then it’s back to the Non-Adventures Of Mr Stewart, who left his non-library visit so late, he decides to stay the night in Amityville. A truly weird and uncomfortable scene follows, though I gather it was meant as an in-joke: the motel Stewart pulls into was the real one in Neepawa where the cast and crew stayed, and this scene has its owner effectively playing himself—or a version of himself—as he insists that there are no vacancies at his self-evidently deserted establishment, but changes his mind when Stewart offers him a wad of cash.
So the real Amityville horror is a lack of hospitality??
Aaaaand then it’s back to the Non-Adventures Of The Central Cast In An Alleged Horror Movie as after more dreary sniping we get something that vaguely resembles plot, or at least back-story. Wendy is detached enough to ask Fawn what happened to her parents, so we finally hear about her defining tragedy—that everyone summer she fought with her parents over them dragging her to their lake-house in Canada, and the year they finally let her stay home alone the cabin burned down and they were killed in the fire.
Wendy: “Wow. Heavy.”
It then turns out that Matt brought a Ouija board along, although it’s Kyle who insists on playing with it. Fawn and Indy both opt out, but Wendy knows all about it and offers to show the boys—
Of all the weapons in the armoury of Evil, none was so powerful as—limited library opening hours!!
—aaaaand then it’s back to the Furzedown.
This interpolation did make me laugh, albeit it was a laugh with a kind of broken wail in the middle of it, inasmuch as this flashback scene is dropped into the film without the hint of a framing device. We just cut directly from the conversation about the Ouija board to Mr Stewart sitting down for a drink with the palaeontologist and the minister. Remember them? This time around the conversation encompasses the time spent by Mr and Mrs Minister in Selah, Washington (the weather didn’t agree with them), and Ms Palaeontologist’s gift to Mr Stewart, a signed copy of her book (we get to hear the dedication read out), before we do get the back-end of a framing-scene, with a fade to Stewart taking notes from the history books in his motel room. (So maybe it was just a case of sloppy editing?)
Meanwhile, the kids have found a nice open space to set up the Ouija board, as well as an apparently limitless stash of candles, arranged on all surrounding vantage points and lit—the latter excused if not explained by, “They help the spirits find their way.” Indy does bail, but Fawn joins in. They get a reaction, of course, and accuse each other of pushing, of course; eventually, in response to a question about what the spirits want, the beaker-planchette spells out S – I – S – T – E – R, before leaping off the board.
Kyle thinks it’s “bullshit” (of course), while Fawn “feels somehow connected”. She then declares herself tired enough for bed and they all pack it in—without bothering to blow out the candles.
(This from someone whose parents just died in a fire? Really??)
In the middle of the night – “Just after 3.00”, of course – the lights in the theatre begin to flicker, various wires and pipes begin to shake, and we hear a fly buzzing. Spooky!
An hour’s candle-lighting for five minutes of séance.
Jevan wakes up needing to, “Take a piss”.
Well. Thank you for sharing that with us.
Meanwhile, it seems that Mr Stewart has been up all night taking notes from those two slender books. He departs the motel at dawn. For the library? That’s where he’s heading, all right, though it’s daylight when he arrives, somehow. After he makes the mistake of asking after the health of a pregnant librarian (“It’s just my first-born!”), he progresses, or regresses, with Librarian #2:
Mr Stewart: “I’m looking for your local history section, please?”
Librarian: “Why do you want to know our local history?”
Why, indeed? As far as we know, it’s the most boring place on earth. Amityville Playhouse may be set in Amityville, and it may have been [*cough*] “inspired by true events”, but there is no in-film indication that we’re in either the real place, or the evolving movie version: there’s no DeFeos, no Lutzes, no Ocean Avenue, no eye-windows, no nothing. Instead, Amityville Playhouse gets to stand in The Corner Of Shame with The Amityville Curse, guilty of being an Amityville sequel bereft of any Amityville.
(Look very quickly during the library scenes for this film’s only real connection to the franchise.)
Librarian #2 does eventually point Mr Stewart towards what he should have been able to find without help and, having been up all night doing research, he sits down to spend the day doing research.
The jet-setting life of a high-school geography teacher, huh?
“I don’t care! For what you’re paying me, you get one expression and that’s it!”
Back at the theatre, Jevan is missing. The others – hold onto your hats for this one – decide to split up and search for him. Yay! – more aimless wandering! Indy bails (again) and stays on her own in the dressing-room, so naturally she’s the one who starts hearing noises. She follows them to a closet…
Indy’s screams bring the rest running, but by the time they get there, she’s gone:
Matt: “That scream!”
Fawn: “I never heard anyone scream like that!”
Kyle: “Guys, calm down for a second. Something must have scared her.”
Anyway, what do you suppose they do in response to the situation? If you guessed “wander aimlessly”, give yourself a gold star.
Kyle ends up searching the body of the theatre alone. Unlike Fawn, he finds it unoccupied—except by Jevan, who tells him the show is about to start. That Jevan’s voice is not is own and that he looks kind of, well, dead, escapes Kyle’s notice. He curses his brother out and insists he come back with him to join the others. Fawn at least notices that Jevan looks sick, but her mind is on Indy.
Back at the library, Mr Stewart is going through Amityville’s Births, Deaths and Marriages records (which the town has printed, handily enough), and notices that a disproportionate number of townspeople have died on the 13th of November over the years.
And THEN – because that’s quite enough plot for now – we rejoin our Furzedown flashback, already in progress.
You oughta be ashamed of yourself.
This time around, an obnoxious local joins the others uninvited, won’t take their hints to go away, and provokes Ms Palaeontologist into giving him a stern lecture on the culture of the Native Americans and their historical mistreatment by the European settlers.
We cut back to Stewart joining the dots of his research. With a gasp, he dashes out of the library and through the streets of Amityville to the theatre. He can’t get in, of course – a POV shot further informs us that his knocking and calling can’t be heard inside – and he can’t get a call through to Fawn. (He has her number why?) Thwarted, he rushes off to get help.
Meanwhile, inside, Matt and Wendy narrowly miss discovering Jevan’s dead body. A fly buzzes…
Kyle and Fawn – and Jevan – decide to give up on the search for Indy and concentrate on getting out. Kyle, Matt and Wendy go looking for tools with which to break the stage-door down, leaving Fawn with Jevan. “You know” she tells him, “you really do look sick.”
No, what he looks is decomposed. But then, to-ma-to, tom-a-to.
But you’d better brace yourselves, because Amityville Playhouse is about to blow its special-effects budget (among other things). Fawn looks away from Jevan; by the time she looks back, his entire his face has turned into a suppurating mess, the left cheek dominated by a gigantic boil—which Jevan proceeds to burst for our edification.
I think it’s meant to be symbolic.
“Hi! Logan Russell here for Proactiv…”
By this time Stewart is confronting the mayor of Amityville, having been sent to him by the police, and in consequence disinclined to take the mayor’s advice and go back to the police. To our surprise, we learn that Stewart isn’t confining himself to trying to get the kids out of the theatre, but has gone whole hog with the results of his research, telling a story about “demons, cults and rituals”. The mayor finally agrees to look at his notes, but first asks Stewart why, as he contends, six people should be killed each year on a particular date?
Stewart explains that the town was built over a series of caves where the local tribe once walled up six individuals supposedly possessed by demons. Before he can explicate further, a blow on the head renders him unconscious…
When he comes to, Stewart finds himself chained to a chair. A somewhat apologetic mayor explains that administering the town’s Dark Secret is one of his official duties, no less, and then goes on to tell him the story—about the party of Shinnecock who found the caves, and unwittingly awoke some “ancient entities”. Six of the tribesmen were possessed; the others managed to seal them in.
Years later, however, the catacombs were rediscovered and opened up by the white settlers. A compromise of sorts was reached (how, we are not informed), with the annual sacrifice of six people the price of the demons staying in their caves and leaving the rest of the townspeople alone.
So far, so, uh, good; from here, however, the “explanation” becomes increasingly confusing, as we hear about the “believers” who sacrifice their first-born children to the demons—
Mayor: “It’s kind of a tradition.”
Nice of Kyle to identify himself so clearly: it minimises the likelihood of the hitman making a mistake.
—and about the Harrimans, who technically met their obligations by sacrificing Fawn’s twin-sister (twenty minutes the elder) – such beautiful babies, the mayor reminisces, indistinguishable except for the birthmark on Adrienne’s neck – but pissed off the demons by not feeding them both babies…although why they should wait eighteen years to dole out the Harrimans’ punishment is even more unclear than the rest of the story.
The mayor then draws a gun and, as Stewart cringes back in terror—shoots the goon standing behind him; promising out of the blue to “try and secure a better future”. He adds that he, “Represents something which is corrupt and vile”, and that he needs to, “Break the chain.”
Wow. Those back-flipping politicians, hey?
The mayor gives Stewart the key to the city, a real key which works on any door, including the door of the theatre. However, he tells him that in addition to getting the kids out of the theatre, an act guaranteed to anger the demons, he must also ensure that no-one else goes in.
He then shoots himself, which isn’t very helpful.
But with only a single glance back, Stewart hurries off—only to find the townspeople milling around in the street, glowering at him ominously. Among them we recognise Librarian #1 (pregnant with her “first-born”, remember?) and the attorney Dorothy Felix. Though clearly not best pleased by Stewart’s interference, they make no move to stop him as he stumbles off towards the theatre—
Britain: home to a different breed of action hero.
—where, by now, undead – or, as I suppose I should call her, demon – Indy has shown up, with her real dead body lying disregarded under some stairs. She and demon-Jevan close in on Kyle—
—and the film cuts away.
The key to the city works on the main doors of the theatre, and Mr Stewart almost falls over Matt and Wendy as he bursts in. He follows them to the stage-door, where they had agreed to meet the others, but there is no sign of anyone else. Stewart stops Matt going to search, saying he’ll do it himself, and ordering him and Wendy out of the building. As he leaves, Wendy tells Matt that Stewart just saved his ass, because THEY have everything they need. A puzzled Matt glances around, but Wendy has vanished…
After some silly false – and even sillier real – scare-stuff, Stewart finds Fawn. He also finds demon-Jevan, demon-Indy and demon-Kyle, their voices all deep and reverb-y. They close in, asking for his help, his and Fawn’s. Stewart points out that’s it’s no good, the others have gone, that with himself and Fawn there are still only five of them—
—only for the long-forgotten demon-surveyor to stumble out of the shadows.
“I don’t know what else to do,” Stewart whispers apologetically to Fawn; but even as he speaks, there is a strange roar, and he looks around to find the demons gone. He and Fawn make a run for it, bursting through the front doors—where they find the townspeople waiting.
According to John R. Walker, a total of three people paid to see Amityville Playhouse during its theatrical run.
“If we can run, I’m sure we can make it,” Stewart urges.
Fawn’s only response is a hair-flick that shows off the birthmark on her neck.
Well. Not really.
The truly remarkable thing about these Amityville sequels is that no matter how bad any given one is, the next one along is pretty much guaranteed to make it look like a masterpiece. I mean, there was me thinking The Amityville Asylum was just a bit of cheap rubbish! – now I feel like giving it a hug.
I used it at the outset, and “numbness” is the word I keep coming back to, to describe the effect of watching Amityville Playhouse. The utter refusal of this film to do anything remotely scary or even just interesting becomes, perversely, almost hypnotic. At least The Amityville Haunting, my previous nominee for Worst Sequel, has a few amusing moments, even if they were entirely inadvertent.
Only British viewers are really in a position to eke any entertainment out of Amityville Playhouse, with the film offering them appearances by Extra Extraordinaire, John R. Walker (over 2,000 screen credits and counting, apparently), voice-actor Gary Martin who, appropriately enough, is the one person who had to “do an accent” as Mayor Elliot Saunders, and Spencer Banks and Cheryl Burfield as Mr and Mrs Minister. As children, Banks and Burfield starred in the science-fiction series, Timeslip, which in 2004 was the subject of a documentary, Timeslip: Behind the Barrier, produced by Steve Hardy—the screenwriter of Amityville Playhouse.
“I’ve been watching the rushes…”
I find myself both amused and bemused by a web interview in which Hardy pats himself on the back for the way his screenplay “subtly” connects Playhouse with the rest of the franchise. I mean, yes, the original DeFeo murders occurred on the 13th November, and six people died; and yes, The Amityville Asylum picked up both details, though it then twisted them into part of a long-standing human-sacrifice ritual; and yes, Playhouse does this too—but in a way that connects with neither of the earlier versions of events, real-life or cinematic. In fact, it isn’t at all clear that Hardy and Walker understood what Asylum (which at least references the DeFeo murders, and is set at 112 Ocean Avenue) was doing.
Likewise, the long-suffering Shinnecocks are dragged into things again, despite the geographical improbability of it all: a blunder that traces back to Jay Ansen, and whose recurrence at this late date we can only chalk up to wilful ignorance.
Considering Amityville Playhouse in its entirety, the single striking thing about it is the way it manages to drag itself out to a stultifying 100 minutes while leaving the viewer with nothing but unanswered questions. How did the settlers negotiate with the demons? We don’t know. Does everyone in Amityville know about the human sacrifice? We don’t know. If so, why would anyone stay there? We don’t know. How are the six victims chosen? We don’t know. What’s with the baby-sacrifice business anyway? We don’t know. Why were the demons angry about the Harrimans not sacrificing Fawn as well as Adrienne? We don’t know. How does Mr Stewart extrapolate from “A lot of people die on 13th November” to “demons in the catacombs”? We don’t know. Is it in fact the 13th of November? We don’t know. Why would a town that runs on human sacrifice keep records of the fact lying around? We don’t know. Why does the mayor suddenly back-flip? We don’t know. Did Fawn really inherit the theatre, or was it just a trap? We don’t know. Why a theatre? We don’t know. Who was Wendy? We don’t know. What happened to Matt? We don’t know.
What could be more endearing than taunting your viewers with references to the franchise you’re completely ignoring?
Why did anyone thing making this film was a good idea??
We don’t know.
Why do I keep watching these things!?
I don’t knowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww…