ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Satan's Playground (2005)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Dante Tomaselli

Starring:
Felissa Rose/Donna
Ellen Sandweiss/Paula
Edwin Neal/Boy
Irma St. Paule/Mrs. Leeds
PLOT-CRUNCH
The vacationing Bruno family get stuck in the middle of the New Jersey Pine Barrens and wind up not only having to wrestle with a band of loonies but the Jersey Devil himself. And how was your weekend?
THE LOWDOWN

Are you here for a reading? – Mrs Leeds

I saw this LSD genre injection a while back and here are my 69 cents on Dante Tomaselli’s  Satan’s Playground. Now, before seeing the picture, I kept hearing how that as opposed to HORROR and Desecration, Tomaselli was hopping on the mainstream caboose with his new fetus. After seeing the film, I have to disagree; this is not the man going commercial, it’s him having a whole lot of fun but in his own warped and bleak way.

At first glance Satan’s Playground might seem like a conventional genre affair; family’s car breaks down, psychos keep family brutally entertained, all the best, love and kisses. We’ve heard that one before many o times! Thankfully the flick had something more in mind for us. By using the familiarity of the premise against us while mixing in Tomaselli’s unique audio/visual aesthetics, a hallucinogenic love letter to the horror of the 70’s and 80’s was born. One that said “I love you” and “f*ck you” at the same time. Satan’s Playground didn’t waste anytime in shifting into “macabre” gear and once it began, I held on to my seat and let the madness consume me. What ensued was an utter attack on the senses with astonishing visuals, infectious atmosphere, an ingenious chain of events, surreal happenings galore and a sly play on expectations. To make matters much better, the whole was bathed in an oppressive and psychedelic audio experience that has to be lived to be believed! WOW! The best way I can describe how I felt is this: I was given the grand tour of a living & breathing celluloid nightmare and I just didn’t want to wake up!

Now I couldn’t go on with this review without propping Irma St. Paule’s (Mrs. Leeds) highly appealing performance as the ring leader of this acid trip! Her pleasurably constant change in demeanor, her winning delivery and her distinctive look made for quite the memorable "twisted sister", one that I couldn’t get enough of. This was her movie! Speaking of cast, the affection of the 70’s and the 80’s was amplified further via the classy presence of Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), Edwin Neal (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Ellen Sandweiss (The Evil Dead). Seeing these three solid thespians doing their horror thing together within one horror flick was a big  razor laced treat for this fanboy. Tag to all that bitter sweet jive; imaginative/unpredictable kills, a couple of potent jolts, some tense bits, groovy visual/circumstantial nods to horror of old (Friday the 13Th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Evil Dead etc.), a slick handling of the Jersey Devil entity and a wicked sense of humor (everybody wants to use that phone…lol!) and you get a horror piñata that came for the cancerous heart.

On the slim side of the Slim-Fast; many of the characters weren’t explored or taken far enough for my liking (Neal and Sandweiss in particular, needed more screen time!). I wanted the opportunity to know them more! Didn't get it. The same can be said about one of the kills which left me very VERY cold. It's funny how it went; I was hoping for more “meat” from one character, didn’t get that, then at least expected a badass ending for that same character, didn’t get that either. The lack of graphic gore semi peeved me in some instances as well where some situations begged for it (the opening needed a good splat) . Lastly I was “so-so” with the conclusion. First of all suspension of disbelief kicked in big time (Just one cop? And a dumb one at that????) and second of all it threaded a “been-there – done-that” ground. It almost felt like they didn’t know how to end the film, so they resorted to repeating themselves. Bummer.

With that said, on the whole, Satan’s Playground was a high rolling, visually striking, audio maniac and unrelenting journey into a somber yet deliciously “happy about it” bad dream. See it, hear it, live it, love it...you won’t want the trip to end! Tomaselli has done it again! Somebody get the guy a beer!
GORE
Most of the kills were off-screen but we still got vicious mallet hits to the head, some slashing (with a meat cleaver no less), some nasty cuts and one heck of a slit throat (nice one).
ACTING
Felissa Rose (Donna) was in fine form here, hitting all of the right emotional notes and then some! Must have been an exhausting part to play! GOOD JOB! Ellen Sandweiss (Paula) did great with was she was given; too bad she didn’t get more! Edwin Neal (Boy) played a mute version of the Hitchhiker in TCM and he of course excelled at it! Irma St. Paule (Mrs. Leeds) stole the show as the un-predictable and obviously insane old lady. Loved to hate her to love her! Salvatore Paul Piro (Frank) rocked as the dead pan patriarch. Danny Lopes (Sean) did what he had to do capably while Christie Sanford (Judy) was utterly chilling as the woman/child with all of her screws loose. Reminded of me of one of my ex-girlfriends...brrr!
T & A
The woods were naked in the film and if you’re as pathetic as I am, it might inspire wood in your pants! Actually I just wanted to say the word “wood”…there I said it…”wood”… talk amongst yourselves.
DIRECTING
Zany shots, groovy aerial camera work, rich/vibrant visuals, novel shot compositions, brilliant use of sound, arresting plays with lighting, eerie mood all over the padded room…nobody cooks the veil like Chef Tomaselli! BANG ON!
SOUNDTRACK
The melodic, schizophrenic, aggressive and at times Giallo inspired score by Kenneth Lampl and Dante Tomaselli was one of the film’s high points where it fully supported and amplified the lunacy at hand!
BOTTOM LINE
Unlike his previous films Dante Tomaselli doesn’t have a glass of Scotch in his hand and a gun to his head with Satan’s Playground. He’s on a handful of happy-heart attack-inducing pills instead! Thankfully that didn’t alter his electric audio/visual staple or the cruelty factor of the picture…it just made it appealing in a different way than we’re used to when it comes to his work. Granted some of the characters/murders at hand needed more meat to them and the finale was a tad disappointing in its redundancy, but at the end of the kill, Satan’s Playground was a relentless and uber entertaining circus of horror... sprinkled with magic mushrooms for good measures! Let Tomaselli spike your drink! You won’t regret it!
BULL'S EYE
The lovely Raine Brown (HORROR) has a cameo as a “prostitute”.

The film was shot on a budget of $500, 000, in Super 16 mm for 25 days in the New Jersey Pine Barrens region.

Ron Millkie (Officer Peter’s) also played Officer Dorf in Friday the 13Th

The film was screened at the “Yet Another Hole in The Head” Film Festival.

VISIT THE SATAN’S PLAYGROUND OFFICIAL SITE HERE

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3:22AM on 09/04/2006
I hate to say it, but i agree with the other comments here. I also rent videos on the Arrow's say-so. Add to that, the fact that I live less than 15 minutes from where this baby was filmed, and I really wanted to like it. It didn't happen. Given his track record, I will let this one slide. The Arrow is usually right on. I'll chalk this one up to his soft spot for low budget movies.
I hate to say it, but i agree with the other comments here. I also rent videos on the Arrow's say-so. Add to that, the fact that I live less than 15 minutes from where this baby was filmed, and I really wanted to like it. It didn't happen. Given his track record, I will let this one slide. The Arrow is usually right on. I'll chalk this one up to his soft spot for low budget movies.
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3:32PM on 08/28/2006

ARROW, WTF

I usually agree wholeheartedly with all of your reviews... But were you watching the same movie I was. This movie was poorly acted, poorly directed, and it bored me to tears. The plot was terrible and made no sense.
I usually base my movie rentals on your reviews because they are usually spot on. I think maybe you must have been high on shrooms and staring at a poster next to your TV while reviewing this piece of garbage. Please don't tell me you are pulling a Harry Knowles and getting a
I usually agree wholeheartedly with all of your reviews... But were you watching the same movie I was. This movie was poorly acted, poorly directed, and it bored me to tears. The plot was terrible and made no sense.
I usually base my movie rentals on your reviews because they are usually spot on. I think maybe you must have been high on shrooms and staring at a poster next to your TV while reviewing this piece of garbage. Please don't tell me you are pulling a Harry Knowles and getting a little pocket change from the film directors.
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+0
10:28PM on 08/26/2006

Shame on you Arrow

Hey I am willing to give a film a pass when the budget is low. You sometimes have to. But that does not mean the film should be brainless. Stupid things like cops touching bloody evidence or a mother sitting in a car with her new born at night in the middle of Jan. with all the windows down when it's freezing are just two examples of a film made by someone who just did not care or really has no respect for the intelligence of his audience.
This was a poorly made film made by a joke of a film
Hey I am willing to give a film a pass when the budget is low. You sometimes have to. But that does not mean the film should be brainless. Stupid things like cops touching bloody evidence or a mother sitting in a car with her new born at night in the middle of Jan. with all the windows down when it's freezing are just two examples of a film made by someone who just did not care or really has no respect for the intelligence of his audience.
This was a poorly made film made by a joke of a film maker. I think I could have looked back a little more fondly at this film had it been made by a couple of college students out on a weekend having some fun. But this guy thinks he is the real deal. The interviews with him on this disc made me sit in utter awe. This silly boy tries his best to come across as some slightly tortured sole with an artistic vision. All I see is one big poser.

I wanted to like this film. I usually agree with arrow and Bloody Disgusting gave it a good reiview also. Not sure what the hell they saw in it as I went back and read the reviews again only to find that I don't agree with one damn thing. I give this film a rating of 1 because I did not feel the need to turn it off. However I think I watched all the way through waiting for that "utter attack on the senses with astonishing visuals, infectious atmosphere, an ingenious chain of events, surreal happenings galore and a sly play on expectations. To make matters much better, the whole was bathed in an oppressive and psychedelic audio experience that has to be lived to be believed! WOW! The best way I can describe how I felt is this: I was given the grand tour of a living & breathing celluloid nightmare and I just didnt want to wake up!" that arrow was talking about.

I want my $5 rental fee back.
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