A family heads into the Pine Barrens for a vacation and a break from the city but on their way to the cabin their car gets stuck. That becomes the least of their problem with the home of a deranged murdering family only a few feet away and the possibility of the Jersey Devil watching the family's every move.
Someone needs to tell Ellen Sandweiss to stay the fuck out of the woods. It never ends well for her. "Satan's Playground" was one of those movies I blindly picked up from the video store when it was a new release. Having no previous experience with Dante Tomaselli, I wasn't sure what to expect from the movie and the fact that it was a DTV horror movie is probably why the movie has remained unwatched, until now.
"Satan's Playground" is another formulaic genre title that is a sendup to movies like "The Evil Dead" or "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". A Family traveling through the Pine Barrens gets stuck, one by one the family goes out to look for help and winds up at the house of a crazed family, they're killed, weird things happen, more people are killed, more weird things happen and it closes up with a stupid ending.
Doing a bit of reading, one would assume that "Satan's Playground" is suppose to be a surreal tongue-in-cheek ribbing of cliché genre films since that's what Dante makes. And to that, I say...no. Actually, not just no. Fuck no. The term surreal is become bastardized and abused by people who don't really know how to use it. That much obvious due to David Prior's "Sledgehammer" being labeled as surreal and as a result, get's put into the arthouse category by people who evidently don't have a clue.
"OMFG! That movie is, like, weird and stuff so it must be surreal!"
I'm not really sure what Dante was trying to achieve with "Satan's Playground" but I can tell you what it is; below mediocre junk. The movie had a budget to spend and it looked slick with it's Raimi inspired camera twirling while looking at a bunch of trees. The rest of movie boasts genre clichés that feature illogical character actions paired with absolutely annoying performances, enormous gaps in storytelling logic and potholes.
A cop happens to be out in the woods trying to investigate a "bonfire" and knocks on the door of what is suppose to be an abandoned house, yet has no issues when the "weird family" answers the door. Never mind that the police car is parked only a few feet away from the Station Wagon of the family that's trapped, yet neither the copy nor the surviving family members do anything. Then, att the end, when another police officer acknowledges that a cop was out in the woods, they never mention the fact that he's missing.
Obviously the cop showed up just so he could be another body but that doesn't make it excusable, especially when it creates numerous errors and glaring problems around one insignificant character. And that's just one character, imagine how bad the problems get with the movie as a whole. Problems that could be ignored if you don't mind nonsensical movies. I know, it isn't like "Satan's Playground" is the first or only horror movie to feature such bad writing and directing. But it does mean that it can never be considered as a good movie and you have to be willing to accept the movie's stupidity if you want to make it past the fifteen minute mark.
Where my main issue with the movie is that it was trying to be weird. It wanted to be the genre-basic horror movie while also being bizarre by throwing in odd twists and turns. Such as one of our characters looking out a window in the abandoned house and seeing a cult performing a ceremony that involved the whipping of a man in a loincloth. Is it there? Is it not there? Who's to say? Dante isn't and that's the general attitude the movie was made with. Let's do something here; it doesn't have to make sense and we won't do anything to acknowledge the moment. We'll just let it be and that will make it weird which, by default, will make it creative, original and super cool!
I can't say with certainty that's what Dante said, but when you have movies that are this stupid, bad and desperately trying to be esoteric. Then I think it is a safe bet that the mentality for the movie is such. Like I said, I'm not sure what "Satan's Playground" was trying to be. At times it felt like a very simple and basic independent movie that was following a formula as a way of guaranteeing that it would be picked up for distribution. Other times the movie is so goddamn stupid and ridiculous that I could almost believe that it was also intended to mock genre titles. And if that is the case, then the movie is actually worse than if it were nothing more than a basic horror movie. Why? Because if it was being tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing, then it failed because it did nothing to differentiate itself from the movies that it would be ribbing. It falls for the same trappings that it, supposedly, is too clever for. Still, "Satan's Playground" is not any worse than other bad horror movies but it's not good either.