Reviewed by: Rees Savidis
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?
Satanís 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, ďmaybe Iím being a little too harshĒ I know The Arrow dug the shit out of the damned thing, did he see something I couldnít? Was there some important little clue to enjoying Satanís Playground that I just wasnít hip to? Stranger things have happened. Am I getting soft? F**k no! But maybe, just maybe, my initial attack on Dante Tomaselliís third feature film was a little unjustified. While I still donít 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 weíve been getting force-fed to us lately.
Now I havenít seen Tomaselliís other two films, Horror and Desecration, so I canít really speak for the mans growth as a filmmaker, but what Iíve seen from Satanís Playground tells me that this is a man who is in love with horror from the dayís of old; most notably the 80ísÖokay, really, itís just The Evil Dead. And no, itís not simply because heís 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, noÖitís ALL these things in fact, coupled with the low-dough excuse of ďletís not show them the monster, because itís scarier that wayĒ bullshit excuse for not making with the good and showing us the monster.
Whatís 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 Ė 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 Satanís 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 Satanís Playground - The Jersey Devil - is a tangible thing. Itís something that immediately evokes an image in a persons head; we can almost see what it would/should/could/might look like. Unfortunately, Tomaselliís decision to relegate The Jersey Devil to high-angle camera swoops, reaction shots and post production sound just didnít have the ďoomphĒ it needed to satisfy.
Recently I was questioned by a filmmaker for not ďgettingĒ 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 Satanís Playground. The film boldly states, and I quote, ďa nightmare of torment delivered by a depraved clan of backwoods psychopaths and the blood-crazed beast known as The Jersey DevilĒ, then thereís some nonsense about entering if I dare or some such shit, but my point isÖwhatís my point? Oh yeah! My point is; I didnít get my proper serving of Jersey Devil, man! The ďdepraved psychopathsĒ part was all fine and dandy Ė a little been there, done that Ė 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 Satanís 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.
For an Anchor Bay release, Satanís Playground is rather light on the extras. At any rate, hereís 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.
Satanís Playground: Behind-The-Scenes: Meh, itís a pretty standard BTH featurette with interview snippets interspersed with ďon-setĒ footage and whatnot. Personally, Iíve never found one of theses studio fluff-jobs to be any good; the trend continues here.
Dante Tomaselli and The Jersey Devil: Iím not really sure what this is supposed to be. It feels like a promo-piece for Dante Tomaselli himself Ė with folks (his producer) claiming that he is some sort of cinematic genius. I donít 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 Ė of course Ė The Evil Dead.
You could do a helluvalot worse than Satanís Playground to be sure. By no means is it a stellar film, but thereís enough there, I think, to satiate most genre-buffs; just donít go in expecting to see The Jersey Devil and you should be fine.