By Kurly Tlapoyawa
Directed by Dante Tomaselli
Cast: Felissa Rose, Ellen Sandweiss, Edwin Neal
Let me start this off by stating that I love me some bad movies. In fact, I adore them. Pop The Beastmaster into the ol’ DVD player, slap me down on the sofa with a big-ass bag of Orville Redenbacher and my lady at my side, and I’m one happy sonuvabitch. What I don’t like, however, are shitty movies. What’s the difference? you might ask. Well, the way I see it, a bad movie shows some heart--you can have some fun watching it. Sure, the acting sucks and the effects are crap, but they still manage to be entertaining. Shitty movies, on the other hand, are mind-numbingly dull and pointless. The only fun you get out of these is when you pop ’em out of the player and fling ’em into the ceiling fan. Basically, if you aren’t entertained on some level--what’s the friggin’ point, right?
This brings us to the new horror flick by Director Dante (Desecration) Tomaselli, the appropriately titled Satan’s Playground. Now, I tried to enjoy this movie. Hell, I even tried watching it twice. But I gotta say, this is one shitty movie.
Our tale begins with the annoyingly dull Bruno family taking a road trip through the infamous Pine Barrens of New Jersey. After driving around and nagging each other for what feels like 12 freaking hours, the family station wagon gets stuck in the road, leaving our protagonists stranded. The dad, played by Salvatore Paul Piro, heads off into the woods to get help--and we all know what that means, right? Meanwhile, Sean, his son with special needs, can see a winged creature hovering above the station wagon, but is unable to verbalize this to his dad as a warning. The tension mounts!
Eventually, the Brunos come under the assault of not one, but two competing sets of lunatics! On one hand, we have the insane Mrs. Leeds and her children, and on the other we have a bunch of red-robed Satanists performing dastardly rituals in the woods. Did I mention the Jersey Devil is flying around and picking people off willy-nilly? The plot here is heinously formulaic, with each family member wandering off one by one and getting done in by one of the three aforementioned threats. Yawn. As far as gore is concerned, the lethal attacks featured in the film are poorly choreographed, and you can tell the actors are being extremely careful with the prop weapons so that they don’t wind up hurting anyone.
To be fair, Satan’s Playground tries really hard to deliver the goods. In an attempt to pump up its horror street-cred, the film is cast with a few well-known slasher cult faves such as Felissa (Sleepaway Camp) Rose, Ellen (Evil Dead) Sandweiss and Edwin (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Neal. And while it’s pretty cool to see Ellen Sandweiss freaking out in the woods again, it doesn’t make up for the rest of the film. Hell, in a couple instances the filmmakers even try to pull off the infamous “Raimi Cam,” which was perfected in the Evil Dead series. I especially love the inept cop who hears a woman screaming from inside Mrs. Leads’ house and then says, “OK, well. ... I gotta run. You be careful.” What the hell?!
I think the Jersey Devil is a pretty cool topic for a horror film, and in the right hands, we could have one helluva movie. Unfortunately, this one had me looking at the clock over and over again--and it’s only 80 minutes long.
Anchor Bay does a great job as far as the DVD content is concerned. We get a great 16x9 version of the print, audio commentary and a behind-the-scenes featurette. Unfortunately, good extras do not a great DVD make. Top it all off with a cover that belongs on those public domain discs you pick up at the dollar store, and you have yourself an extremely unimpressive overall package. Anchor Bay should be ashamed of themselves. Seriously. (Anchor Bay)
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