This week’s VHS is Manny Coto’s 1989 effort Playroom.
An archaeologist (Chris McDonald) returns to the site of his family's murder many years later only to encounter the same evil.
Playroom was a rather interesting watch. I was reminded of the weird oddball stuff Full Moon was putting out at the onset of the nineties as the story – provided rather randomly by Jackie Earle Haley no less – engaged me more than most B-movie fare. Director Coto, who three years later would direct Dr. Giggles, has a solid grasp on how to entertain his audience.
The movie sported a pretty solid cast, as well. Led by consummate character actor Chris McDonald, years before he settled into the villainous d-bag role he would often play down the road, the film also featured Aron Eisenberg and Vincent Schiavelli, who showed up mid-stream to add some spice to the proceedings.
|Chris McDonald playing it up.|
Playroom started off a little confusing with a scene where a child wakes up in a castle to find all his family has been butchered. Then, I realized it was a dream. But wait no it was a flashback. So the kid was really living in a castle. I still can’t decide whether that’s the best or the worst thing ever. As the movie went along, it seemed to be frustratingly holding back on the gore, but little did I know the best was yet to come.
Because holy cripes, does this thing ever bring it in the third act! First there were the torture devices – think Bloody Pit of Horror, but, you know, not shitty – that in turn lead to something even better. I had no idea there was a cool creature puppet at the climax of this. It was kind of a cross between Chucky and the Crypt Keeper, so much so that I was clamouring to Imdb to see if it was a Kevin Yagher creation. Turned out it was Greg Aronowitz & John Criswell, the latter of which worked on countless films of that era, including Spaced Invaders, Garbage Pail Kids & the Ghoulies series. The Yagher influence was clearly evident though and it was a fucking capper.
With the practical effects revival happening right now I’m surprised more people don’t talk about this one. Playroom was a nice find. Once just another in a sea of coverboxes that would always stare back at me at the video store, it’s good to see that it’s actually watchable fare.