HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SATAN’S PLAYGROUND (2006)

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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!

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REVIEW: REAL FEAR: THE TRUTH BEHIND MORE MOVIES (2013)

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REAL FEAR: THE TRUTH BEHIND MORE MOVIES (2013)

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What better way to follow up yesterday’s review of last year’s fun paranormal documentary Real Fear: The Truth Behind The Movies but, with a review of the new installment Real Fear: The Truth Behind More Movies set to debut this Friday 9/6/13 on Chiller TV. (check your local listings!)

Katrina Weidman (Paranormal State, Real Fear #1) is back with returning crew members John McGarry and Chris Holt along with new Real Fear team members Becky Weingrad and veteran Ufologist Richard Dolan. Together they take us on investigations of the real stories behind The Haunting In Connecticut, Fire In The Sky, A Nightmare On Elm St. and The Blair Witch Project and this gives us a nice mix of angry spirits, abducting aliens, nightmare inducing entities and cryptozoological creatures. As a fan of horror flicks and paranormal shows, you had me at… well, all of it.

Second installment is a lot of fun and already has me hoping for a third. The team, especially the returning novice members, have some experience under their belts now and with investigator Weidman and grizzled veteran Dolan, they have matured into a fairly sturdy team of investigators. While we don’t quite have the fun of watching the newbies get spooked so easily like last time, it has all the more impact when they do get spooked as they are more experienced…and delightfully, they do get spooked quite a few times during the show. The gang travel to Connecticut to investigate that famous haunting and the film it inspired. They talk not only to mom Carmen Reed, portrayed in the flick by Virginia Madsen, but also TVs Haunted Collector John Zaffis, who was one of the original investigators on that infamous case and now owns some interesting relics from it in his haunted collection. We, as last time, get a run down of what allegedly actually happened compared to what was portrayed in the movie and the team even gets to spend the night at a nearby house where a local Paranormal team is dealing with an escalating haunting of their own.

Next they travel to Pennsylvania to look into the background of the creepy alien abduction flick Fire In The Sky. They interview Travis Walton, the man who was allegedly abducted and was the subject of the film, who tells his side of this bizarre occurrence as compared to what Hollywood presented. Things get a bit creepy when the group also investigates a death which may be related to Walton’s tale and spend some time at night in the woods where the film and real life incidents supposedly took place.

While the first two segments are a bit interview heavy, as those cases have no new developments, the next two segments are the real meat of this fun meal as the team goes into the field to investigate A Nightmare on Elm St. and The Blair Witch Project

To look at Wes Craven’s classic, the team goes to the abandoned Pennhurst Asylum in PA. where we are told patients suffered from recurring dreams and visitors, who now enter the closed facility, are also haunted by recurring nightmares as well. Craven’s film was supposedly based on a group of Asian immigrants who all suffered from the same dream, some of which who died in their sleep and in the style of A Nightmare On Elm St. part 3, the team decides to spend the night in the dread filled asylum. Add to that, veteran psychic Chip Coffey…who is a hoot here as always…and you get a delightfully goose bump filled segment that would entertain Mr. Krueger himself.

The show wraps up with my favorite segment…as it takes place in the Pine Barrens, N.J. how could it not be…with an investigation of The Blair Witch Project and the similar tale of accused witch Mrs. Leeds and her infamous 13th child. While the Blair Witch itself is not based on the Jersey Devil lore, it is similar to The Last Broadcast a found footage flick made a year earlier that was. There is no proof that Blair Witch is inspired by Last Broadcast, but the similarities in the films and the Jersey Devil legend sends the team to the infamous stomping ground of my home state’s most famous resident aside from Sinatra and Bon Jovi. They gather witness testimony and then decide to camp out there for the night and it’s a most eventful and spooky night indeed.

Sure the novelty of the first special has worn off somewhat and it has a bit less of the fun ‘Scooby Doo‘ vibe as the team has matured into their roles a bit more and with the addition of older, veteran investigator Dolan, but we do get more intensive investigations to entertain the paranormal fan and a lot more analysis of the films in question, which intrigues the movie fan. Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, it’s fun to watch the team connect the paranormal dots between the reported incidents and the movies they inspired. Personally, I think the best segments are the ones that get the team out in the field and staying in spooky spots. I really enjoyed all the history, interviews and analysis, but the show really comes alive when the team puts themselves in a position to meet the unknown…and sometimes the unknown wants to meet them. That’s where the real fun in Real Fear is and hopefully future installments get them into haunted spots even more. I had a really good time with this new chapter and hope Katrina and the gang go to the movies again real soon!

Real Fear: The Truth Behind More Movies premiers Friday 9/6/13 on the Chiller Network. Check your local listings for times.

3 and 1/2 spooks !

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE BARRENS (2012)

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THE BARRENS (2012)

The Barrens is a moody and atmospheric little horror thriller set in New Jersey’s famous Pine Barrens and dealing with it’s most legendary native aside from Sinatra, The Jersey Devil. Stephen Moyer plays the emotionally troubled Richard, who’s taking his wife Cynthia (Mia Kirshner) and kids Sadie and Danny (Allie MacDonald and Peter DaCunha) on a family camping trip to the Pine Barrens. But, not only is Moyer’s Richard a bit stressed, he also has been bitten by a dog that might have rabies. Add to that having possibly seen the Jersey Devil as a child and we have a great mix for a really interesting family outing. Despite it’s convoluted set-up, Barrens is actually an entertaining horror. Obviously Moyer starts to see things and then people start to go missing and we are left to wonder is Richard hallucinating or is the Jersey Devil real and poor delusional dad taking blame for it’s actions. And I must say writer/ Director Darren Lynn Bousman keeps you guessing and keeps the film filled with an atmosphere of dread as we slowly learn what’s going on… or do we? That’s what makes this deliberately paced thriller work so well, just when we think we have the facts, we get handed more reasons to doubt. The cast all perform well, though Moyer’s heavy Australian accent is odd here since he is playing someone who has lived in the tr-state area since childhood. Kirshner is a little too deadpan at times but, not enough to hurt the film. I personally liked her hot girl-next-door MILF because she wasn’t playing the role that way, it came across naturally and she provides some delightfully distracting cleavage. There is some nice gore and make up effects to go along with Bousman’s visual style which is one thing he always delivers whether his films work or not. Personally I find his films very hit or miss but, they always look good. All in all, probably one of the better films I’ve seen on the subject of Jersey’s most elusive resident, so far… though that really isn’t saying much… and whether Bousman does give us a definitive answer as to who or what is really responsible for all the carnage or not, you’ll have to investigate The Barrens to find out. A slow burn but, a fun, spooky movie especially if you are a fan of The Jersey devil legend.

3 mythic Jersey Devils!

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