There’s much more interesting than taking a trip back to watch a cult movie from the director who created the masterpieces of yin and yang of Christmas movies, Black Christmas (1974) and A Christmas Story (1983), none other than Bob Clark, with his first odd outing Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. This frankly and truly is an extremely low budget horror and a quasi-comedy flick with a $70,000 budget ($404,000 adjusted for inflation), which likely to air at as midnight spookshow, and that’s past the strange outfits of then, nothing one can do avoid that eyesore. As for this movie, writing fell to Alan Ormsby who went on to pen Cat People (1982), Popcorn (1991), and other projects, as well as star as the lead actor in this film too. In addition, notably Clark filmed this movie first, and then Dead of Night (1974) [aka: Deathdream] with Ormsby who penned this too; as part of a two-picture film deal, both in Florida and with much of the same cast. In 1972, Geneni Film Distributors the film, complete with technical flaws, and poor story format, which does make some sense later but takes a strange trip to get there, however thanks to Blue Underground for delivering a definitive release in 2004. A remake of Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, planned in 2007, prior to shooting Clark and his son Ariel, died in a car accident by the result of a drunk driver.
The story centers on a very odd director Alan (Alan Ormsby) who ventures to a remote island off the coast of Florida who gives a wonderful performance as an obnoxious individual, and just one step from being a sleazeball found in b-horror movies of today’s market. He makes his cast of loyal supporters tag along, some desperate in their careers and others bullied into submission to this island with a forgotten cemetery, clearly making the audience despise his very existence. His group includes a newcomer Terry and her boyfriend Paul, comedic Jeff, serious minded Val, and fragile ingénue Anya (Alan’s real-life wife). Alan knows exactly how to motivate his actors, some with kid gloves others through humiliation or belittling. All this works to some degree, but really never matters that much in the film. Alan scares his ‘friends’ at the cemetery with the help of Roy and Emerson (Roy Engleman and Robert Philip) made up as corpses, which works fairly well. It becomes apparent that Alan wants to expand past the mere scares, and digs up a corpse named Orville (Seth Sklarey), Alan does a poor impression of a warlock casting a spell to resurrect the dead to become mindless zombies. Sometimes some wishes best left unspoken, however without it no actual movie occurs. The setting that was unimpressive at the start was now getting spookier, we’re here, why don’t we dig up a corpse? Alan, the director, is bringing them there to play a big joke. I won’t give away what the joke is. The group digs up a corpse named Orville Dunworth (Seth Sklarey) part of a ritual to resurrect the dead best impression of a warlock. As it appears no successful conjuring and Alan gets his henchmen to clean up the graveyard and others to assist with taking Orville back to an old house he has access too. It’s from here things turn into a weird mix, between Alan and Anya and the others teasing their dead friends and the undead rising in anger and hunger for flesh. The dead somehow know where to go, perhaps the scent of the living makes the zombies into a pack of flesh-hounds, and either way case the assault occurs making the rest movie more entertaining. Therefore, by the end it all becomes a tad like Night of the Living Dead (1968), although an end clip foreshadows both Zombie (1979) and Land of the Dead (2005).
First one must discuss the title, this film has no children in it, therefore it might confuse some viewers, however one could infer that Alan’s actors are in fact the children, as he cares for them in some odd manner. The special zombie makeup gives some impressive looks on such a meager budget, however with the limited lightning little is shown on the screen and sadly leaves the gorehounds aching for more as no splatter actually occurs for their enjoyment. However, even with a cliché filled script, the appeal of the spooky score and slow buildup along with the careers of Clark and Ormsby help the film solidify a positive footing in the cult cinema.
An odd and interestingly entertaining yet strange story which contains a latter portion of the film becoming creepier than the dull beginning. The Blu-ray contains a wonderful collection of extras for the horror fans seeking something very different.
IMDb Rating: 5.5/10
Baron’s Rating: 6/10
Here is a strange trailer: