One must be careful about using words like "nadir" to discuss a series when one has not seen all of the entries yet - especially when the series spent as much time in micro-budget direct-to-video hell as the loose-knit Amityville pictures have - but my God, if The Amityville Playhouse, AKA The Amityville Theater, isn't the nadir of something, then I just don't know how to fucking cope with anything, anymore.

The plot is simply enough that it could have worked well at the level of pure fable: high school student Fawn Harriman (Monèle LeStrat) has recently lost her parents in an accident, and thus come into possession of an old theater in the sleepy town of Amityville (unless I missed something - and dear reader, forgive me, I was not giving this film my undivided attention - this is the first Amityville film to reference the DeFeo murders in no way, shape, or form, in addition to taking place in a snoozy burg that feels more like a small town in Canada than suburban Long Island - and if your guess it that it feels that way because it was shot in a small town in Canada, than give yourself a cookie). She and some friends - extravagantly loathsome boyfriend Kyle (Linden Baker), his brother Jevan (Logan Russell), and extra padding Matt (Kennie Benoit) and Indy (Eva Kwok) - trundle off to Amityville to check the place out, while her beloved teacher Mr. Stewart (John R. Walker, who also directs and co-wrote the story) promises to spend the weekend poking around to learn what he can about the history of the place.

He of course, finds out that the theater, which somehow is not located at 112 Ocean Avenue, has been associated with many deaths over the years, while Fawn and company - also including the Goth squatter Wendy (Hollie Anne Kornik) - discover that it's just lousy with ghosts, clanging away and making all kinds of very unpleasant screaming and bumping noises. This initially seems to be just about fucking with the live folks' heads, but of course there's a whole possession angle, which is probably the closest this comes to earning the Amityville name. There's also a great deal of discussion about whether or not Jevan and Matt are homosexual lovers, virtually all of it originated by Kyle, and it's certainly not germane to anything, though golly, does the film ever spend a lot of time on it. There's even a narrative-slaughtering pause for Fawn to very crossly inform Kyle that it's not okay to accuse people of being gay when they obviously aren't, just because you think that "gay" is a handy surrogate for "weak and contemptible", and how very swell it is of Walker and co-writer Steve Hardy to plug in a neat little moral lesson like that right in the goddamn middle of their film. Not at all like they were looking like mad for anything that would help haul the thing up to feature length (which it doesn't even need! At 103 minutes, The Amityville Playhouse could lose 20 minutes without batting an eye, or even mildly endangering its status as an appropriately long feature film). And while LeStrat is at no point in the entire film even slightly tolerable as an actress, hearing her try to clamber of this mountain of dialogue is the most horrifying thing of all.

No, much better is the scene where Stewart flashes back to his time in England - the other country where the film was shot - to recall the time he chewed out some colleagues for their shoddy attitudes about Native Americans. It makes even less sense, but at least Walker is somewhere within the vicinity of being capable of acting, or at least stressing the lines in a way that suggest he was thinking about what those stresses mean, which sets him above basically all of the actors playing the teens.

Oh, also: flashbacks. Lots of them, cued by a big staticky sound effect. The point, I believe, is to build up some manner of mystery surrounding Fawn's past - also to drop us into a fucking pub in fucking England, for some reason - but all it really does is to make the story weirdly hard to follow.

The film isn't wholly without merit. Towards the end, when Stewart breaks into the theater with his findings, he encounters the possessed victims, and they're all lit such that they are, in fact, legitimately creepy. And the make-up effects are quite impressive given that could not have been much of a budget. Unless maybe they went all-in on prosthetics at the expense of actors and sets. At any rate, The Amityville Playhouse manages to look the part of a horror film, though it's not able to do fuck-all else.

Reviews in this series
The Amityville Horror (Rosenberg, 1979)
Amityville II: The Possession (Damiani, 1982)
Amityville 3-D (Fleischer, 1983)
Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (Stern, 1989)
The Amityville Curse (Berry, 1990)
Amityville 1992: It's About Time (Randel, 1992)
Amityville: A New Generation (Murlowski, 1993)
Amityville Dollhouse (White, 1996)
The Amityville Horror (Douglas, 2005)
The Amityville Haunting (Meed, 2011)
My Amityville Horror (Walter, 2012)
The Amityville Asylum (Jones, 2013)
The Amityville Playhouse (Walker, 2015)
Amityville: Vanishing Point (Greenberg, 2016)
The Amityville Terror (Angelo, 2016)
Amityville: No Escape (Couto, 2016)
Amityville Exorcism (Polonia, 2017)
Amityville: The Awakening (Khalfoun, 2017)

Not reviewed at this time
Amityville Death House (Polonia, 2015)
The Amityville Legacy (Ferguson and Johnson, 2016)
Amityville: Evil Never Dies (Ferguson, 2017)