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Reviewed by: Rees Savidis

Directed by: Dante Tomaselli

Felissa Rose
Ellen Sandweiss
Edwin Neal

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What's it about
An idyllic family road trip through the pine barrens of New Jersey takes a turn for the worst when the family station-wagon takes a shit, stranding the hapless bunch on a remote stretch of dirt-road. As night falls, the air becomes thick with menace and the swooping sounds of giant wings, while the surrounding woods fill-up with Satanists, crazy old ladies and retards.
Is it good movie?
Satan’s Playground review - version 2.0

This is a first for me. This is the first time in recorded history that I have gotten half-way into a review (and a rather scathing one at that), only to sit back, draw my fingers from the keyboard, take a breath, and think to myself, “maybe I’m being a little too harsh” I know The Arrow dug the shit out of the damned thing, did he see something I couldn’t? Was there some important little clue to enjoying Satan’s Playground that I just wasn’t hip to? Stranger things have happened. Am I getting soft? F**k no! But maybe, just maybe, my initial attack on Dante Tomaselli’s third feature film was a little unjustified. While I still don’t really care for the film per se, after taking that breath and mulling over his approach to the material, I realized that I have to at least respect what he was trying to do. Granted he failed, at least for me, to deliver on the promise of a film about the Jersey Devil, but he still managed to make something refreshingly un-cool and a little bit old-school as opposed to all the cavity-educing, zero-attention-span pieces of shit that we’ve been getting force-fed to us lately.

Now I haven’t seen Tomaselli’s other two films, Horror and Desecration, so I can’t really speak for the mans growth as a filmmaker, but what I’ve seen from Satan’s Playground tells me that this is a man who is in love with horror from the day’s of old; most notably the 80’s…okay, really, it’s just The Evil Dead. And no, it’s not simply because he’s cast Ellen Sandweiss (Cheryl from The Evil Dead) in the film, or because his film is, tonally at least, similar to said film, or because the score (composed by Tomaselli) is, at times, a note-perfect rip on The Evil Dead, or because there is a familiar gait to his camera movement, no, no…it’s ALL these things in fact, coupled with the low-dough excuse of “let’s not show them the monster, because it’s scarier that way” bullshit excuse for not making with the good and showing us the monster.

What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander it would seem. In The Evil Dead, the fact that the viewer never saw the evil, creature, force, demon, devil, badness or whathaveyou, worked to tighten the screws of dread – the idea that something was out there, just inside the tree line, surrounding that little run-down cabin and swallowing up anyone who dared make a run for the bridge was terrifying. With Satan’s Playground, that same approach feels like a copout because unlike the pure, unrefined and very ancient bad-mojo in The Evil Dead, the titular beastie in Satan’s Playground - The Jersey Devil - is a tangible thing. It’s something that immediately evokes an image in a persons head; we can almost see what it would/should/could/might look like. Unfortunately, Tomaselli’s decision to relegate The Jersey Devil to high-angle camera swoops, reaction shots and post production sound just didn’t have the “oomph” it needed to satisfy.

Recently I was questioned by a filmmaker for not “getting” his movie, simply because I mentioned in my review that the film did not deliver on what I assumed it would be; I was thinking hack and slash and I was given soap opera snores - nuff said. But the same cannot be said for Satan’s Playground. The film boldly states, and I quote, “a nightmare of torment delivered by a depraved clan of backwoods psychopaths and the blood-crazed beast known as The Jersey Devil”, then there’s some nonsense about entering if I dare or some such shit, but my point is…what’s my point? Oh yeah! My point is; I didn’t get my proper serving of Jersey Devil, man! The “depraved psychopaths” part was all fine and dandy – a little been there, done that – but fine and dandy all the same, but I can help but feel cheated out of some wet and nasty Jersey Devil action.
Video / Audio
VIDEO: Anchor Bay presents Satan’s Playground in a very nice, very clean, 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer.

AUDIO: The swoop and flap of devil-wings sounds great, while subtleties such as dialog and the tiniest of twig-snaps come across nice and discernible. All around a wonderful sound mix.
The Extras
For an Anchor Bay release, Satan’s Playground is rather light on the extras. At any rate, here’s the list:

Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Dante Tomaselli: There is no denying the fact that Tomaselli is a horror fan through and through. This guy loves what he does and it certainly comes across loud and clear in his commentary - Quite informative and rather enjoyable.

Satan’s Playground: Behind-The-Scenes: Meh, it’s a pretty standard BTH featurette with interview snippets interspersed with “on-set” footage and whatnot. Personally, I’ve never found one of theses studio fluff-jobs to be any good; the trend continues here.

Dante Tomaselli and The Jersey Devil: I’m not really sure what this is supposed to be. It feels like a promo-piece for Dante Tomaselli himself – with folks (his producer) claiming that he is some sort of cinematic genius. I don’t like things like this because they make the person in question look like a self-serving, egocentric asshole.

The rest of the disc is rounded out with trailers for the Anchor Bay shit-kabob The Garden as well as a spot for Malevolence and – of course – The Evil Dead.
Last Call
You could do a helluvalot worse than Satan’s Playground to be sure. By no means is it a stellar film, but there’s enough there, I think, to satiate most genre-buffs; just don’t go in expecting to see The Jersey Devil and you should be fine.
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT

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