DVD Review: Devil’s Playground
DVD Review: Devil’s Playground (2011)
Directed by: Mark McQueen
Starring: MyAnna Buring, Craig Fairbrass, Sean Pertwee, Danny Dyer, Jaime Murray
Review by: Kayley Viteo
Devil’s Playground is one of the best examples of a schizophrenic horror film I’ve seen lately – and I don’t mean this in a good way. It hovers between horror, action and movie of the week melodrama, switching in tone so fast that you’ll probably give yourself whiplash as you struggle to make it through the full 90 minutes.
Devil’s Playground has taken what worked in other infection films and attempted to apply it in a new script with some honestly strange twists. A corporation accidentally infects a relatively small portion of the London public after expanding their testing of a new performance enhancing pharmaceutical to human subjects. Trouble is, one of the tricky side effects is the desire for human flesh and just a few bites later, we have a full-blown apocalypse on our hands. The real focus of the film is a small group of survivors, one of which is a mercenary struggling to protect a young pregnant woman who appears to have some sort of immunity. You can now begin referring to Devil’s Playground as “28 Days Later Light.” Trouble is, it’s light on any real substance and is ultimately a caricature of the film it struggles to pay homage to.
There’s a rather slick look to the film, but coupled with the choppy editing the effect as a whole is more music video than feature film – and a rather amateurish looking one at that. There’s nothing remotely original – at least not original and good – to the plot and it moves along at a clunky, lumbering pace. Between ridiculous and frankly out of place emotional scenes and action sequences that are lackluster at best, any seasoned horror fan will spend most of the time either laughing at the script or recalling the better films that came before it. (There’s not even any real gore to keep you occupied, so don’t bother holding out hope.)
The actors are fine and I wish I could say more, but they’re given very little to work with. For one thing, the story tries to do too much – there’s a mercenary just beginning to brood about his dark past, a seemingly immune pregnant lady, in-fighting between the survivors, and “performance enhanced” infected. That, of course, gives the movie an excuse to have the infected jumping off walls like urban ninjas in their effort to eat their neighbors. All the while you have survivors saying things like “I’m not coping well with this, you know” completely seriously – let’s just say if you can survive watching this without laughing out loud at least 5 times, you deserve some sort of medal. I find this a sincere shame because the cast has the skills to do some great things – MyAnna Buring (The Descent), Danny Dyer (Doghouse) and Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers) are all capable of turning in dramatic and horrifying performance and could do great things, but instead they are relegated to saying a lot of words that ultimately amount to not much of anything at all.
If there’s anything that pisses me off the most about Devil’s Playground, it’s the woefully melodramatic ending – a bit like emotional entrapment, as if the aim is to wring every last bit of emotion they can out of the viewer. It is done in such a laughable fashion that it all feels more like a parody than anything else. Shift in tone was already a huge problem, but it is never more egregious than in the final 10 minutes.
Special features include deleted scenes and a behind the scenes featurette, both of which are largely useless. The only good thing that can be said about the former is that they actually recognized these scenes should be deleted (and should have stayed in the dark, honestly). The latter is rather boring – the interviews are nothing new or surprising, although it is always interesting to hear the perspective of the cast and crew behind the camera. The chief problem with this featurette is that the actually interesting portions are too short. That being said, no matter how much a movie may frustrate me – I always appreciate seeing the hard work and passion of the horror community in action. It just isn’t worth it given the 90 minutes of boredom I had to suffer to get to that.