3 out 10

Released: 11th October 2010

Director: Mark McQueen (London Heist)

Cast: Craig Fairbrass, Danny Dyer, MyAnna Buring, Craig Conway, Bart Ruspoli, Lisa McAllister, Alistair Petrie with Sean Pertwee and Colin Salmon

Writer: Bart Ruspoli


Craig Fairbrass (CLIFFHANGER) star of the world’s worst vampire movie, Dead Cert, re-assembles assorted pals for a much improved variation on the Zombie film.  Well much improved compared to Dead Cert.  At least there are some elements to faintly recommend to a certain type of viewer. The U.S.P. this time around is that the undead not only run 28 Days Later-style, they are naturals at parkour.  For the uninitiated, this the extreme sport of fast running that includes running up walls and acrobatically jumping across urban chasms.  I could say that this is a cool reason to either die (just in case it can scientifically be proved to happen) or recommend this film.  But I won’t.

The plot primer is a bio-enhancer test programme that goes wrong turning 30,000 subjects into flesh eating acrobats.  There is only one subject who proves to be immune, a girl-next-door type played by Myanna Buring (KILL LIST). The medical giant send their number one mercenary to track her down. Guess who plays the mercenary?  Craig Fairbrass soon finds her (by using zero detection skills – only getting into his car by my reckoning)  hiding out with ex-jail bird boyfriend Danny Dyer (HUMAN TRAFFIC) and assorted idiots in a mechanics yard out in the countryside. As the virus spreads escape becomes increasingly futile. But either none of the characters have ever seen a horror film or they don’t care about protecting themselves.  Their idea of out witting the cannibal Ballet Rambert  is to hide behind a desk rather than keep their mouths shut and block the doors.  As the film has a budget of 65p, a lot of the time is spent bickering. And its poorly scripted bickering at that. Fairbrass and Dyer are at constant loggerheads.  A cowardly couple want to steal their transport at any chance they can get.  The plot contrives to have them return to London to find a helicopter that can get them to freedom but theres seven of them and only three seats.  Such stupidity still demands all the characters go back into London as opposed to hiding out in the relatively safe countryside.  They discuss this single fact for what seems to be three hours.  At least the set appears to be a real garage. The only positive point I could muster.

Actually, lets stop this. Why am I criticising a horror film where logic has no place?  I think I’ll be quiet on those points.  Films like this I find fall or stand on an interesting supporting cast.  I was drawn in by the presence of Colin Salmon (ALIEN VS. PREDATOR)  and Sean Pertwee (EVENT HORIZON). For once Sean Pertwee seems to avoid his standard gory death but his character is on a very different mission to the main bunch.  I would’ve preferred to see how his panicky river cop faired compared to the central brainless bunch of herbs.  Colin Salmon is the head of the evil medical corporation and has a few neat scenes near the beginning, so at least it delivers in the genre cameo boxes, unlike Dead Cert.  Is it scary, is it tense? No to both. It’s just tedious.  I’m hoping one day that Danny Dyer will return in a low budget horror gem like Severance again. But no, his agent still lines up these moribund thrillers.  I wonder how they get such interesting actors to appear in them.  Maybe blackmail.

As usual, first person to ask gets my DVD copy free of charge.  Very faint praise indeed but this is Batman Rises compares to Dead Cert. But still….

3 out of 10 and thats for the parkour and the genre cameoes.



One thought on “DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND


    The tagline is ‘Our future has only one hope’. Is it Danny Dyer, ex-cop with a dark secret? Or Craig Fairbrass, security officer with a dark secret? Or Myanna Buring, nice girl with a dark secret? (Well, quite a nice secret really, but that would be giving something away.) I won’t tell even though the answer is revealed within five minutes and might as well have been signposted in neon, and it’s not Danny Dyer. (Bugger it, it’s Buring.) But having watched this film one wonders if humanity is worth saving. After all, what kind of depraved species can create an entertainment so lacking as this?

    As I understand it, zombie films are really a reflection on topical themes: consumerism, conformism, that sort of thing. I’m not sure if it’s because there is something in the genre which is essentially angry, primal yet satirical, reflecting a need to rip open, expose and consider ourselves, or whether it’s just that as the dialogue consists mostly of ‘Fuck! Arrgghh! Grr!’ and the action comprises running and munching, we have more time to think about this sort of stuff. Regardless, I watched Devil’s Playground determined to discover its profound moral subtext.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. What the devil is a devil’s playground? Well, in Devil’s Playground we learn that it’s the name the police have given to London as it is ripped apart by zombies. This got me thinking. London is under attack from a (literal) plague of speedy zombies. Do the police really have time to get their P.R. teams together to come up with a name for the disaster? What names did they reject? Satan’s playpen? Lucifer’s sandbox? The playing fields of Beelzebub? Or maybe they could have just called it the containment zone, red one, the no-go zone, the stay the fuck away from London zone, that sort of thing. Certainly, none of the police we meet seem to have the imagination to come up with anything so poetic.

    All of which suggests you can’t trust the police. Particularly as they yell ‘fuck’ a lot. Then ‘aaarrggh!’ and then ‘grrr’. Which brings me to trust, which is the moral subtext of this effort. Who can you trust? For how long? What hidden agendas interfere? Can you trust your friends, whether they’re infected by zombie plague or not? One thing’s for sure, never trust a Geoffrey or a Lavinia. However, you can trust Steve, Matt and Ange. But what about the enigmatic/blank Cole? The symbolism of the names is important as it points to another theme in this surprisingly layered yet pitifully thin would-be gore-fest: class. And therefore money. The rich are grasping, lazy, ordering others to do their dirty work whilst the poor honest workers (Steve – I liked Steve, Ange, Joe) scrimp and save and do the dirty work and deal with the consequences. Yes, this film is more left-wing than your average Ken Loach blockbuster, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Apart from it being very dull.

    With bad science. Thirty thousand people volunteer to test a new wonder-drug. All of them at once. Then 29,999 of them turn into rampaging triple-jumping zombies. Only one has avoided that fate – Ange. How the baddies know this isn’t clear as they don’t know where she is so she could be somersaulting her way through Enfield taking chunks out of passing pedestrians, but no, somehow ‘they’ know that she has eluded the fate of the other 29,999. The film keeps mentioning this figure, presumably to ramp up the importance of Ange to the plot. After all, what is it about Ange that makes her one in thirty thousand? It ultimately just makes you wonder – why didn’t they, you know, try it out on ten people or a couple of rats first? That way they’d have nipped the problem in the bud and we’d be spared this drivel. But this is not the way

    of bad rich men, as represented here by poor Colin Salmon (sample line ‘Michael, open the fucking door and show me this mutant that’s got the press up in arms’), in charge of a multi-national with a staff of three. Greed made this happen. Greed is bad, it makes zombies who eat greedy people who then fail to benefit from their own greed. It’s a Greek tragedy with Danny Dyer.

    How would you cope if the world suddenly fell under zombie attack? This was another profound question I mulled over, noting that hiding behind a tree does work, that trusting cars, police, helicopters and Lavinia is foolish (trust again), and that it’s really easy to earwig conversations taking place inside cars. And you should still stop at traffic lights in the middle of nowhere. I also know that I’d want Craig Fairbrass on my side. He may be desperately dull but he looms nicely and looks like he belongs in this film (sample line ‘Who the fuck are you?’). The rest of the cast range from the surprisingly good (Dyer – always surprisingly good – sample line ‘I’m an ex-cop who’s just spent two months in prison, Cole – I think I can handle a road’) to the dull (Myanna Buring simpering helplessly and looking a bit bored, but she doesn’t know she’s one in thirty thousand) to the likeable (Craig Conway as Steve – I liked Steve), and the atrocious (Lisa McAllister – is she a real actress?). Bart Ruspoli is a name previously unknown to me. He plays reliable copper Matt (or possibly Jim – I never worked out which was which) and also wrote the script, which may explain why he seems to be embarrassed by some of the dialogue he’s been saddled with. Still, anyone who can deliver the line ‘There’s strange noises coming from the canteen’ with a straight face can’t be all bad (though I can’t remember if that was Jim or Matt). As for Sean Pertwee’s cameo. It’s barmy. It’s like watching Bobby Ball running fast with his braces nailed to a door.

    The big failing of Devil’s Playground isn’t the leaden dialogue, the dreary set-up, the failure to create a tense garage-based central act, the stock characters or the lack of logic; though they inevitably play their part. It is the lack of visual flair. One instance may suffice – one of our leading characters gets killed (you know they’re going to be picked off one by one) when the v__ c______ and a g_____ impales _______. But instead of showing us the incident we are left wondering why ______ is gurgling lifelessly. Eventually we see why, but it just feels as if the director doesn’t know what to do with images. It’s all flashily edited, but there’s nothing to see.

    It’s an efficient time-waster. You can have fun guessing the kill-order and the characters’ dark secrets, which ones are traitors (remember never trust anyone with a posh name, especially Americans who start every line with ‘Back in the states’). And you will certainly wonder why Danny Dyer’s arm is in a sling, and why he’s able to discard it half-way through. Alas, it’s not even in the so-bad-it’s-good category.

    For a British film which does combine suspense, horror, terror and the unknown, try Kill List.

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