Devilís Playground Review
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Currently second only to vampires in terms of exposure, zombies certainly arenít hurting for cultural presence as monsters go these days. With so many entries in what is a pretty simple field, itís going to take something special to stand out. If new British action/horror movie Devilís Playground doesnít make it, at least itís not for lack of trying.

Following the trend established by previous British zombie flick 28 Days Later, the ďzombiesĒ here are less the walking dead than the unlucky recipients of a monumentally flawed new super steroidóor someone unlucky enough to be bitten by one of them. Like that other film, these zombies are fast and surprisingly agile, which just goes to show how bad an idea it is to combine zombies with steroids. An empty London is scary. A London besieged by hordes of mindless cannibal gymnasts is something else entirely.

Devilís Playground starts loading up characters quickly, mostly focusing on Cole (Craig Fairbrass), a mercenary in the employ of the evil genetics company that inadvertently released the zombie plague. It turns out that, of the 30,000 human test subjects who initially received the steroid, only Angela (MyAnna Buring) has shown no symptoms. While the zombie apocalypse erupts around him, Cole has to cross London to find her.

From there, the film splits to cover four small groups built around Cole, Angela, Angelaís just-out-of-prison ex-boyfriend, and her security guard brother. There are just way too many people to keep track of, and itís almost a relief when the film gets around to the business of paring these groups down. Along the way, they encounter just about every staple plot device of the genre: escape routes are discovered and cut off, survivors turn on each other out of paranoia and self-preservation, past sins are uncovered, and heroic sacrifices are made.

Given what I imagine was an extremely modest budget, Devilís Playground manages to acquit itself pretty well visually. The makeup and zombie effects are solid, and there are a couple of sequences that strongly suggest the city-wide nature of the problem, a tricky task with meager resources. Itís when the various groups converge on a rundown service station outside of town that those limitations start to become more apparent. Itís understandable that the filmmakers would need to scale back down, but it hampers the momentum.

The other problem that arises when the action scales down is that the surviving characters arenít all that interesting. Fairbrass anchors things pretty well as the tough guy trying to do right, but there are so many other people involved that even his better moments fly by too quickly to have any weight. Angela, on whom the fate of the world purportedly rests, is entirely unmemorable.

A more streamlined cast or a tighter plot might have made just enough difference in this one to move it up from a standard B-movie, but Devilís Playground just canít quite clear that bar. Like their namesake, the problem with zombie movies is that there are so many of themóand while this one tries, it doesnít really stand out from the pack.

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