Released by: Vivendi
Released on: October 11, 2011.
Director: Mark McQueen
Cast: Danny Dyer, Craig Fairbrass, MyAnna Buring, Sean Pertwee, Jaime Murray
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Just like a few too many other zombie/infection/plague movies, The Devil’s Playground begins when an evil corporation tests their brand new enhancement drug on a test group of thirty thousand people in London, England. Of course they tout it as fail safe and as a sure thing, and of course, it’s not – it turns that all of the thirty thousand human guinea pigs they used have turned into zombies except one – a pretty blonde woman named Angela Mills (MyAnna Buring). She was immune to whatever was in the drug that made people turn into fast moving, high kicking super jumping living corpses.
When it all hits the fan, the corporation’s head honcho, Peter White (Colin Salmon), tasks the company bruiser, Cole (Craig Fairbrass), with finding Mills and bringing her back, but Mills doesn’t want to be found and she’s more or less gone into hiding so that she can meet up with her jailbird boyfriend, Joe (Danny Dyer), and a few friends and acquaintances. Cole winds up finding her but gets bitten by one of the zombies on the way – instead of turning instantly, he’s injected with a serum by Dr. Brook (Del Henney), the man who created the drug in the first place. This serum won’t cure Cole, but it will delay his ‘turning’ for eighteen hours, which he hopes will be enough time to find Angela and bring her back.
A mix of Crank, Resident Evil and 28 Days Later, Mark McQueen’s The Devil’s Playground isn’t exactly breaking new ground in the zombie movie subgenre. In fact, it’s pretty gosh darned derivative in a lot of ways both thematically and visually. It looks like 28 Days Later not only because it’s set in the UK but also because there’s a lot of handheld camera work and it has that sort of washed out consumer grade video to it in some scenes. It takes the ‘time is running out, tough guy’ idea from Crank and works it into the storyline rather well, but it doesn’t make the film any more original even if it does help up the entertainment value and add some suspense where the film might otherwise lack it.
The film does have a pretty impressive mean streak in it when it comes to the gore sense. Sure we get the typical ‘shot to the head’ scenes and the even more typical chewing and biting attacks but in addition to that the movie has a couple of shockingly brutal scenes of violence that you won’t see coming and which help this one stand out a bit more than it would have without these scenes. The gore is the star of the show here, the make-up effects are pretty decent and the splatter is not only handled well but also served up in pretty generous doses. As far as the performances go, no one really stands out all that much here as either exceptional or horrible. All involved are perfectly fine in their roles, no more and no less which, like the story, is pretty much middle of the road. The end result is a movie that’s entertaining enough but probably not something you really need to go out of your way to see unless you’re hung up on seeing every zombie movie you can.
Devil’s Playground looks decent enough in this 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Detail is alright despite a lot of fast moving camera work and some obvious contrast boosting and color tinting having been applied in post. Black levels aren’t always reference quality but for the most part they are fine and there are no problems with compression artifacts, print damage or edge enhancement to note.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track, with optional subtitles included in English only. This is a pretty aggressive track with an abundance of surround activity throughout the movie. Sometimes the effects are a bit high in the mix and the ‘zombie roars’ that come from behind are obviously pumped up a bit to get some jump scares going. It works – for the most part dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow.
Extras are limited to a fifteen minute behind the scenes sequence that includes some on set footage and brief interview clips, three minutes of inconsequential deleted scenes, trailers for other Vivendi releases, menus and chapter stops.
The Final Word:
The Devil’s Playground might be derivative of a few too many other films to really hit home but it’s entertaining enough? High praise? No, not really but it delivers an hour and a half’s worth of action, violence and jump scares – even if you’ll see the twists coming you can still turn off your brain and have some fun with this one.