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I will admit that I am not a fan of director Dante Tomaselli. As you regular BumsCorner readers already know, I tend to despise art house films. You know the film that is weird just for weird's sake. That's how I felt with Tomaselli's Horror. I did not like that movie one bit. Going into Satan's Playground, I really only knew what I heard, and that was that this was more of a mainstream narrative than his other films. With that in mind I gave it a shot (well, that and I HAD to review it). After watching the film I was relieved. While it did not blow me away by any means, it was mainstream enough to be enjoyable by the masses, but kept that weird look and feel that Tomaselli is known for.
A family is taking a vacation and gets lost in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Cutting through the forest their car gets stuck in some mud, so the husband (Salvatore Paul Piro) goes looking for a house with a phone. Now right at this point I thought things were a little odd. In the middle of nowhere, who the hell is going to just start walking in the woods to look for a house? I can see following the road a bit or back tracking to a gas station, but walking through the forest? Not a chance.
Left in the car is his nagging wife Donna (Sleepaway Camp's Felissa Rose), autistic son (Danny Lopes), his wife's friend Paula (Evil Dead's Ellen Sandweiss) and her newborn kid. After hearing some sounds like a helicopter flying overhead and with her husband not coming back yet, Donna freaks out leaving her friend and son in the car, and heads to find a house herself. She comes upon a beaten down old house and is greeted by a strange, kind woman Mrs. Leeds. Inside she is drugged (not so kind I guess) and locked in the basement. Some screaming commences and she escapes. She doesn't get far when she finds herself now tied up to a tree ready to be sacrificed by a strange man wearing a red cape and hood. She gets "saved" and ends up right back in the house with the strange Leeds family. Soon her son wanders out of the car and makes his way to the house. So does Donna's friend when her baby gets taken from the car.
Now Mrs. Leeds is the mother of legend that gave birth to 13 kids, and the 13th was a monster. Now you know the true story of the Jersey Devil. Don't forget that he is in the movie also. In fact reading the back cover you would think that he is the main "villain" of the film. Watching the movie I realized that I was mistaken for thinking this. This little devil, while being in the trees and flying around making noise, is never seen. The few that are attacked from the "monster" consist of a tiny blur that cuts the people's throats or faces. Nothing more. Going into the movie about the Jersey Devil and not seeing the devil was quite a disappointment.
The real villains of the movie are the Leeds family. Only 2 of Mrs. Leeds children are shown, which made me wonder where the other 11 went. Did they find jobs? Did they marry and move out of the city? This is never answered. Maybe in the sequel, huh? The family was an inbred Chainsaw Massacre bunch that were just weird out of straight boredom I guess.
Did I lose a lot of you on this review? Odd huh? Well, the movie is that. Even though it works in a semi-lateral fashion it does not make much sense. We have random Satanists, the crazy family, the invisible Jersey Devil, and some of the stupidest decisions that a victim could ever make in a movie. If you escape a family that tortured you and almost took your life, would you go back to show a cop the house. Hell no! I would draw them a detailed map and fax it too them as I'm getting my ass out of the state. At least bring more than one cop if you do decide to head back.
Lets talk about the acting for a moment. Actually lets not. It really wasn't good at all. One thing that I also hate to see in movies is the child that is autistic. They seem to be showing up more and more in movies like a new fad. While Danny Lopes played the role of the son fine I just think it would have been more effective if he played it straight.
Like the movie this review is all over the place, so let me just sum it up. While many will probably despise the film and just stare blankly at the screen confused as hell when it is over, I will recommend a rent to some. This is a pretty delirious movie that made me sit confused after it was over. Did I hate it? Was this completely horrible? Am I feeling a rush of enjoying the film? Once it was over I actually wanted to watch it again. The film really makes little sense at times, and this works for and against the movie. Even though it had a lot going against it, it really wasn't bad. With it's issues of a nonsensical story, bouts of bad acting and lack of an actual devil, I will give it 2 1/2 cans, but also suggest that you fans of the weird cinema or Tomaselli's past work definitely check this one out.
Added: Wednesday, September 06, 2006
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