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Director Dante Tomaselli’s work in the horror genre is decidedly off the beaten path. His penchant for odd, hallucinatory, low budget horror movies certainly keep him out of the mainstream- check out his earlier films DESECRATION and HORROR to see what I mean. However, Tomaselli is an interesting visual stylist, whose films are worth seeing, with his latest film SATAN'S PLAYGROUND ($20) being his most accessible, thus far. Were Tomaselli to move even further into the mainstream, where he could secure larger budgets, he would become one of the more formidable directors working in the genre. Of course, I wouldn’t want to see his films get too commercial, as they might loose that oddball quality that sets them apart from assembly line horror tales churned out in Hollywood.

SATAN'S PLAYGROUND doesn’t find the director straying too far from familiar territory with its horrific tale set in the wilderness of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. The plot of SATAN'S PLAYGROUND finds a family driving into the Pine Barrens for a vacation, when the totally expected happens- their car gets stuck in the mud and is immobilized. Frank (Salvatore Paul Piro) goes in search of help, leaving his wife Donna (Felissa Rose), her sister Paula (Ellen Sandweiss), their autistic son Sean (Danny Lopes) and infant nephew in the vehicle to await his return. When Frank doesn’t return, Donna sets out to find her husband, only to come across an isolated, ramshackle house inhabited by the elderly and demented Mrs. Leeds (Irma St. Paule), as well as two of thirteen offspring (Edwin Neal & Christie Sanford). What follows is a series of grisly deaths at the hands of the deranged inhabitants of the Pine Barrens, including one known as The Jersey Devil.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has made SATAN'S PLAYGROUND available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. SATAN'S PLAYGROUND is a modestly budgeted affair that certainly doesn’t look like a Hollywood blockbuster. However, for a film shot in the Super 16 format, the presentation is more than pleasing. The image is generally crisp and pretty nicely defined. Colors are rendered with a good level of saturation and the flesh tones appear fairly natural. Blacks are fairly deep, whites are stable and there is a pretty decent level of shadow detail. Grain is noticeable, but not excessive. Digital compression artifacts are nicely contained.

SATAN'S PLAYGROUND comes with a pretty well mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The sound mix is fairly creepy and atmospheric and makes good use of the outlying channels for directional effects. Fidelity is solid, with the musical component being well rendered. Voices are crisply reproduced, plus the film’s dialogue is always easy to understand. An English 2.0 surround track is also encoded onto the DVD, but no subtitles are provided.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few nice supplements. Director Dante Tomaselli is on hand to provide a fairly detailed running audio commentary. Satan's Playground: Behind The Scenes offers an informal eight-minute on the set look at the production. Dante Tomaselli And The Jersey Devil features the director in a four-minute talk about the legend of The Jersey Devil and incorporating it into his film. A Theatrical Trailer, Teaser Trailer and Poster & Still Gallery close out the supplements.

SATAN'S PLAYGROUND is definitely not your garden variety Hollywood horror movie, as director Dante Tomaselli continues to evoke the quality of a drug-induced nightmare with this film. Anchor Bay Entertainment’s DVD looks and sounds great and offers some nice extras. If you are familiar with Dante Tomaselli’s earlier films DESECRATION and HORROR, then you’ll want to check out SATAN'S PLAYGROUND.



Satan's Playground (2005)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2006 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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