October 13, 2010

Devil's Playground (2010)

"As the world succumbs to a zombie apocalypse, Cole a hardened mercenary, is chasing the one person who can provide a cure. Not only to the plague but to Cole's own incumbent destiny. DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND is a cutting edge British horror film that features zombies portrayed by free runners for a terrifyingly authentic representation of the undead."

Call me shallow but the only reason I wanted to watch "Devil's Playground" was because I saw a picture of Jaime Murray on the IMDb and wanted to see more of her. She's been in quite a few horror genre films including "Botched" (2007) and "The Deaths of Ian Stone" (2007), but I think most people would know her from the "Warehouse 13" TV series. Unfortunately, she was very underused in this, and I still didn't get to see her naked.

Anyway, "Devil's Playground" is yet another apocalyptic virus/zombie movie with a huge amount of similarities to everything in the same subgenre from "28 Days Later" onwards. It's British and set in London with lots of fast running not-really-zombies who jump up walls and through open windows every chance they get.

The zombies are the only things that are fast about "Devil's Playground" as the pacing is ridiculously slow. Everything feels like an episode of "Torchwood" but with no comedic aspects whatsoever apart from the cast of Mockneys all being unable to pronounce any words with "th" or "ing" in them. The usual suspects are all here including Danny Dyer, Craig Fairbrass and Sean Pertwee all posturing, dropping their aitches and saying, "Nuffin'" and "Summink" every couple of lines just to show how "London" they all are. Apart from all the gratuitous swearing, gore and violence, it could have been a Hallowe'en special of "The Bill".

I didn't hate it any of it particularly except that it was the same old stuff that I've seen hundreds of times before but with different people. As a longtime consumer of Monster energy drinks, it did amuse me slightly that the virus that mutates people into zombies was, in this case, caused by an energy supplement injection.

As you can expect, the plot consists of a group of survivors trying to keep out of the way of the zombies but with some of them getting infected along the way. Of course, they go through lots of bouts of fighting among themselves too and there are the obligatory, and clich├ęd, suicides/self-sacrifices just to give them even more to woodenly act their way through.

MyAnna Buring from "Lesbian Vampire Killers" plays the lead female role of Angela who just happens to be immune to the virus and carries the antidote in her bloodstream. You may also remember her from "The Descent" (2005), but maybe not as she has no screen presence whatsoever. Bearing that in mind, it's no wonder that she is rumoured to be playing the part of Tanya in the the next installment of the Twilight Saga. I suppose she's pretty enough if you like blondes, but I prefer brunettes, so I didn't care about her character in "Devil's Playground" at all.

Mockney staple Danny Dyer has a backstory as a policeman who just got out of prison for shooting a kid and has all the guilt associated it, but who cares? I used to like Danny Dyer as an actor and he's still good, but honestly, he's not action hero material, and I wish he'd do better films than this. Maybe he'll be good in the remake of "The Asphyx" coming next year, but I doubt it.

The biggest role goes to the biggest (at least the tallest) actor in this, Craig Fairbrass, who always looks the part but hasn't really developed much as an actor since he was in "Eastenders". He seems to always be typecast as either a hard man or a soldier (or both) and it isn't doing him any favours even if it does pay his bills. His action scenes range from unintentionally comical to downright brutal but, without giving too much away, the chainsaw-wielding ending which I was hoping for didn't happen. He used to be a lot more charismatic but he's still no leading man material either. I just didn't warm to his character at all and the motivation behind his actions was questionable to say the least.

It's not that any of the actors should have lacked chemistry because they all seem to live in each other's pockets with all the projects they are involved in together, but they just did such horribly routine performances here that I really don't want to see any of them in anything ever again. Some people might argue that horror films don't need strong characterisation, but I disagree with that entirely, especially when it comes to groups of zombie survivors who you are supposed to feel something for.

I'm not sure if it was the low-budget ($3,000,000!!!) or just inept filmmaking, but "Devil's Playground" really dragged for me. At just over an hour and a half long it felt more like three hours in spite of some quite good action scenes. Like I said, I didn't totally hate it, but there was just nothing new or inventive here, and I got a bit bored waiting for the formulas to work themselves out.

Somebody left me a comment recently telling me that if I'm that bored with zombie movies then maybe I shouldn't watch any more of them. The trouble is that if there's nothing else available in the horror genre to watch then I still have to watch them, don't I? I don't regret seeing "Devil's Playground", but it could have been a lot better. Fans of "28 Days Later" and "28 Weeks Later" will undoubtedly love it.

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