‘‘They bite you, and then you become one of them’’
London becomes the plague playground for ravenous victims of a purported life enhancing super drug, that proves to be the harbinger of death and the catalyst for a metamorphosis to exist beyond life as the un-dead !.
Pudding Lane may have sparked the Great Fire but Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) ignited the film furnace that enabled many a contemporary British made Zombie movie to follow, and Devil’s Playground smoulders in its back draft like an old flame rekindling that spark of interest.
RAK 295 is a modern day lifestyle pep tablet designed to eliminate the stress and strain of everyday life. Produced by N-Gen Industries for the purposes of giving the populace a performance enhancing boost to their lethargic lives. Thirty thousand volunteers undertook the testing programme over a two month period. After just one month extreme side effects became evident. Multiple organ failure, vomiting, vascular collapse and external excretion of blood.
The doctors after just one week of the study decided to quarantine the very first test subject due to his obvious allergic reaction. His physiology and cellular makeup altered, and only a test viral suppressant keep the maliciously malignant toxin from fully manifesting, this test subject fully transforms once his anti viral injection is withheld. What follows is an aggressive reaction and the test subject transforms into a feral being with super enhanced strength and great agility. Throwing himself at doctors and N-Gen assistants he rips and tears at their flesh with his nails and razor like teeth. Leaping high into the air from a standing start, and bouncing off the walls like a gymnast high on Beta Blockers. This is no longer a human medical test subject, it is a vicious monster in human guise, hungry for flesh and thirsting for blood !.
All but one volunteer, a young woman named Angela Mills, was unaffected in any shape or form. Every other intern to the N-Gen programme eventually dies.
N-Gen Industries want the whole experimental undertaking results kept quiet from the government, and the public in order to instigate a cover up and escape a crippling lawsuit. They call upon head security and company problem solver Cole (Craig Fairbrass) to take care of loose ends, but most importantly to find Angela Mills and bring her back to the facility, as she is the only living antidote known to this cause and effect. When Cole himself gets bitten he only has eighteen hours to locate the girl before his self inject able suppressants can no longer keep him, human !.
With the outbreak all over the news panic and pandemonium hits the streets of London and amidst it all is Angela Mills trying to escape with a friend to a rural retreat. Their objective is to meet up with her brother who is in the police, and has a colleague who is a helicopter pilot. They know the whereabouts of a four person helicopter and its location is secluded away from general notice.
Danny Dyer plays the role of Joe, his wife to be was Angela, until their lives were turned upside down by events affecting Joe’s position as a police officer. Now a disgraced cop having been deemed irresponsible in the act of detaining a young man involved in dealing drugs, who is killed in the line of duty. Joe is released from prison on bail, eaten up by the guilt of the incident but determined to prove his innocence and dedicated to winning back the love of his life Angela. They are thrown together again in the spiralling events that overtake their lives in the combined need to stay alive. They reunite at a friends car auto repair shop on the outskirts of London, where joined by an American and his wife, they are soon attacked by the infected and are defending their retreat against the blood crazed inhuman creatures.
Assistance arrives in the form of Cole, having tracked Angela Mills to the location, and he immediately takes charge. Securing the ramshackle repair shop, and despatching the remaining rabid infected in brutal and bloody fashion, Cole unites the fractious group into putting a plan of survival in place. The helicopter being the objective, but knowing that it has room for literally four occupants self preservation within the group becomes an evident issue that has to be dealt with. Cole’s priority is to get Angela to a medical facility, anything and anyone else is unimportant. She discloses that she is pregnant however, and with Joe the father, his objective is precisely the same !.
What transpires is a battle to ensure the safety of Angela, and a fight for survival against the growing hordes of those infected by Rak 295. The Action is pretty much full on from the start, but the overall fraught tension plays out during the second half of the movie as everything plays out at night. The streets of London are ablaze and the feint flicker of optimism is never far from being snuffed out.
Craig Fairbrass turns in a strong and dogged performance that injects depth and believability into the character of Cole. When he runs out of bullets he uses whatever is available to fight his way through the flesh craving infected denizens, bludgeoning and pummelling with his bare fists at times, smashing skulls and breaking limbs. The blood quota is pretty high and mostly well done. Reliance on old school make up and stunts make redundant the usual over domination of CGI to enhance the overall enjoy ability, of what is essentially a budget movie doing its best to cleverly mask its shortcomings. It does it well and achieves its primary objective, and that is to deliver a solid if somewhat unoriginal story with a decent impact upon a willing audience.
Zombie movies are in abundance but when they are done right, and still deliver entertainment like Devil’s Playground, there’s life in the Dead genre yet.
Director Mark McQueen
With Craig Fairbrass, MyAnna Buring, Danny Dyer,
Jaime Murray, Sean Pertwee, Colin Salmon,
Lisa McAllister, Shane Taylor & Craig Conway