SATAN’S PLAYGROUND (2006)
Since we’ve all ready had mention here lately of The Jersey Devil with our review of Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Barrens and the TV special Real Fear: The Truth Behind More Movies, I figured I’d make it a trifecta and include a look at New Jersey filmmaker Dante Tomaselli’s 2006 horror Satan’s Playground. First off I should start out by saying that Dante Tomaselli’s films are very surreal and have a dream-like… or more appropriately, nightmarish… quality to them and don’t follow a traditional narrative to tell it’s story. I like his films but, they are a bit of an acquired taste as they don’t quite follow a standard structure and at times place the visuals above the story. If that is OK with you, then you might enjoy his Jersey Devil themed horror. The film tells the tale of a dysfunctional family including Donna Bruno (Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose), husband Frank (Salvatore Paul Piro), their autistic son Sean (Danny Lopes), Paula (Evil Dead’s Ellen Sandweiss) and her infant child, Anthony as they travel through the infamous Pine Barrens. This is a horror so, the car breaks down and as they try to locate a phone or some help, the woods begin to take on an ominous tone with the sound of beating wings and the appearance of a creepy old house. Once they knock on the door and an old women claiming to be Mrs. Leeds (Irma St. Paule) answers, the nightmare begins… one none of them may wake up from. Tomaselli does create a very creepy low budget flick here. It may not always be easy to follow but, the goosebumps are there and he does create some really spooky and sometimes nightmarish visuals on a very small budget. The cast are all adequate and in the case of St. Paule her odd delivery only enhances the disturbing effect of her performance. No Oscars but, in a weird film like this the off key acting can sometimes be a plus. It makes things all the more unnerving. How much you enjoy this flick depends on how much clarity you need in watching a movie. Tomaselli’s story does wander, don’t expect a solid explanation when all is said and done and sometimes characters appear and then seem to disappear without explanation. Again, the film follows a more dream-like structure and if you don’t mind that then this is a very atmospheric and creepy flick. There are some gruesome moments caused by both Mrs. Leeds and her demented family along with the evil presence in the woods, who is never seen but whose wings are heard and bloody carnage witnessed. Another bonus of the film, at least for me, is that Tomaselli actually filmed his chilling little flick in the Pine Barrens adding to the atmosphere. So, basically I recommend this odd but effective little horror but, warn it is not for everyone and it requires the viewer to go with it’s surreal style and not expect a more traditional flick. If you do, you’ll get a spooky, atmospheric and dementedly original little horror that may just resemble the nightmare you might have after watching it.
3 mythic Jersey Devils!