Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Felissa Rose Week: Satan's Playground

Welcome back for Day 2 of Felissa Rose Week. Well it's always that time when you have to plan out and execute a family trip. Siblings kicking the back of your seat, a rousing game of "Stop Touching Me" and at least one kid always gets queasy. What could be safer and more fun that a trip to...Jersey? Howzabout a legend of darkness hidden with in the forest of Pine Barrens hell bent to do everything and everyone in? This is Satan's Playground.

Tellin' ya Felissa, it was the woods themselves.

Written and directed by Dante Tomaselli (Desecration, Horror, Satan's Playground and Torture Chamber) tells the tale of folklore of Mother Leeds. Legend has it she birthed 12 children and found herself once again pregnant for the thirteenth time convinced the child would be the Devil. Born on a stormy night the child would appear normal but morphed into a creature with the hooves and head of a goat, wings of a bat and a forked tail. As it slew its midwife before up, up the chimney it went and out in the Pine Barrens. Thus the Jersey Devil was made.  Later he went on to make a series of successful vacuum cleaners.  Our story opens as it always should. With a hooker getting dumped into the woods to fend for herself. Hmm, maybe not the best thing in the world but hey gotta start the body count somewhere.

Um Woods?  I got some nice sex here if you let me live.

Parents Donna ( Felissa Rose of Taken Alive, Bloodhounds II, Dinner and Driving, Daybreak, Nikos the Impaler, Zombiegeddon, The Drone Virus and Satan's Playground) and Frank Bruno (Salvatore Paul Piro of Joe's Apartment, Sleepers, Night Falls on Manhattan, Mob Queen, Godzilla, Kill or Be Killed and Desecration)decide a trip into Pine Barrens is the place for their autistic son Sean (Danny Lopes of Desecration, Nikos the Impaler, Horror, Satan's Playground, Chicken Pox, The Locals and Torture Chamber).  I guess that stretch in Wrong Turn in Tennessee was too rural...and hillbilly mutated mongoloid infested.

We don't get many city folk around these here parts.

As the Brunos make their way to the forest traveling with sister Paula (Ellen Sandweiss of Within the Woods, The Evil Dead, Speedbag, Satan's Playground, My Name is Bruce, Brutal Massacre: A Comedy, The Dread and Dangerous Women) and new baby Anthony, the car breaks down leaving them stranded on the side of the road and shockingly enough no Triple A in sight. Frank being the good guy and alpha male in this scenario votes to trek ahead on foot to get help when he encounters the house of Mrs. Leeds (Irma St. Paule of Guiding Light, The Oracle, Psychos in Love, The Cemetery Club, The Saint of Fort Washington, Thinner and Second Best)herself.

Okay my own opinion, this house is a dilapidated and rickety looking shabby shack that says to me either, "We're a family of cannibals or you will need a tetanus shot just from looking at our house." In either case, not warm, cuddly and inviting. Mrs. Leeds lives at home with her darling mute daughter Judy (Christie Sanford of Desecration, Horror, Brooklyn Bound, Pigs, Winter of Frozen Dreams and The Ascension) and creeper son umm no name given. (Edwin Neal of Gatchaman, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Future-Kill, Good Girl, Bad Girl, JFK, Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi, City Hunter, Devilman Lady, Queen Emeraldas, Sakura Wars and Zombiegeddon)

Will the Brunos make it out alive?? What is flittering around through the trees?? If there is a witch, will there be a large feline and an armoire?

Some interesting trivia as this is Ellen Sandweiss's first feature appearance since The Evil Dead back in 1981. Filmed in 16mm you get the vibe that Tomaselli is a huge fan of Argento, Fulci and Mario Bava with the extreme close ups on the eyes telling the story with a hint of Raimi for Evil Woods occurring.

Some great handheld, some shaky cam POV and even some decent crane if not improvised cherry picker shots so you know he is versed with camera work. The mood is eerie, the pace is not lagging and the action is pretty impressive. The tone of the overall film is pretty damn creepy just with the exposition. Sandweiss and Rose both on a subconscious level seem to know that darkness awaits them all.   Just based on the Bobcat station wagon and region they were shooting in, you could in fact made this look like pure 80s horror film. Thanks to the actors you feel the two family dynamics of a long car trip to having the family down the way that NO ONE talks to and not even the mailman won't go there. 

Rounding out the film at an hour and 21 minutes this is pretty good and creepy. Most of this film is shot at night and it is wonderfully lit. Not so much you can make out the work lamps spread through the forest (Talking to you, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation) but just enough to take advantage of the chill in autumn and capture breath and some fog between the trees.  Makes me wonder if Tomaselli had dry ice placed around because it is that fearful and mysterious with the proper extras.  So if you like the local legends and dark tales, I would recommend this one.   Oh yes I forgot, no there is no nudity perv male readers. Get over it.

Psst, Frank farted.  Big time. Crack a window please.