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

Felissa Rose/Donna
Ellen Sandweiss/Paula
Edwin Neal/Boy
Irma St. Paule/Mrs. Leeds
7 10
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?

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!
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).
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.