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DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND (2010)
I went into DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND knowing nothing about it. Seems the film’s star Danny Dyer is not the most well-liked actor, from what I hear. When I asked why folks disliked the actor so, I didn’t get much of a response save “He’s a cunt.” Which really does nothing to explain things. So, all I have is this film to go on and I have to say, I liked DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND quite a bit. Getting it out of the way, for those who were wondering, Dyer did a decent job here playing a cop accused of killing a child who is let out on bail by his less than reputable friend. It’s not the biggest role in the film, so if you don’t like the character, there are other to latch on to. Though he’s given second billing, the real star of the film seems to be Craig Fairbrass who plays a clean-up man for a corporation who administers an energy drug that proves to be fatal and then unfatal for its 3000 test subjects. The performance won’t win any awards, but as a tough guy who is remorseful for his murderous past, he played to the part decently. That said, there’s nothing really “cunt-y” to Dyer’s performance in DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, though he’s one of the less sympathetic characters of this expansive story.
With the cause of the plague being an energy drug gone wrong, having hyperactive zombies seems fitting. As I always say, if a zombie film is either a) done well or b) brings something new to the table. This movie does both. Sure there are those who hate the fast moving zombie, but I’m one who can appreciate them (thought I am an appreciator of the classics) as a different kind of monster all together. This film’s zombies know parkour. Yes, that’s right. Parkour. Sure, it’s a bit crazy, but it also turns out to be a lot of fun. This is a frantic film, jutting around to different locales showing these leaping zombies attacking en masse. I had a lot of fun with it, seeing the zombies leap through small spaces, walk up walls, and hurdle cars and other obstacles. Adding agility to the zombies is somewhat of a natural evolution to the running zombie, in my book.
I also have to commend the filmmakers for giving this story a grand scope well beyond the budget. The broad story by Bart Ruspoli has multiple subplots all running at once and somehow the filmmakers were able to make it feel like this amped up zombie apocalypse was going on all over London. It’s a far cry from Romero’s small group trapped in a farmhouse motif, but the filmmakers somehow keep all of these threads together forming one cohesive story. The survivors prove to be monsters to (as is usually the case and point of these zombie films), so seeing these zigzagging zombies chomp down on them is satisfying to say the least. I was amazed that director Mark McQueen was able to make this seem like a multi-billion-dollar film with what I’m betting was a budget a fraction of that. Most small budget films which reach for the stars sadly come up lacking. Here the producers were able to somehow make this feel big. With the wide-spanning locales and clever use of scene, the filmmakers are able to make this look like a film so much bigger than the budget suggests.
All in all, DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND is a horror film that’s heavy on action and surprisingly textured when it comes to story. Most of the performances are decent (DEXTER’s psycho ex-girfriend Jaime Murray plays a desperate survivor) by a UK cast who I am not familiar with. I had a lot of fun with DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND and if approached with an open mind (shedding all preconceptions of Dyer and your feelings about fast zombies), I’ll bet you do too.