Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1973)

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Overall Rating 54%
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Ranked #3,388
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Alan Ormsby
Alan Ormsby
Valerie Mamches
Valerie Mamches
Jeff Gillen
Jeff Gillen
Anya Ormsby
Anya Ormsby
Paul Cronin
Paul Cronin
Review by Chad
Added: October 15, 2006
Bob Clark. Although his name will never rank up there with Romero, Carpenter, or Craven, this man was responsible for bringing us one of the best horror movies of our time, that being Black Christmas. He was also responsible for a couple of films outside the horror genre, films that you may have heard of: Porky's, Porky's II, and A Christmas Story to name but a few. Tonight's film was Clark's debut in the world of horror, it was also the second film of his to be released (the first being the extremely bizarre She-Man), and finally, it was one of the first films to capitalize on the success of Romero's Night of the Living Dead.

The movie centers around Alan (Alan Ormsby), a movie director who decides that bringing his "children" (his word for his actors and actresses) to a remote island in order to perform ancient resurrection ceremonies at the local graveyard is the perfect way to spend an evening. Alan and his makeshift cast - consisting of Val (Valerie Mamches), Jeff (Jeff Gillen), Anya (Anya Ormsby), Paul (Paul Cronin) and Terry (Jane Daly) - goof around for a bit before finally digging up the corpse of a fellow named Orville (Seth Sklarey), as the spell that Alan plans to perform requires that a corpse be exhumed. Alan sets out to perform all of the necessary steps of the spell as laid out in an ancient tome, including painting a pentagram on the coffin, lighting black candles, and sprinkling the blood of an unborn baby onto each of the graves of this cemetery. Lightning flashes, thunder roars, the women start to get a little spooked, and... nothing. The spell didn't work, and to relieve his frustration, Alan decides to take Orville's corpse to an abandoned cottage to have a little fun. His "fun" consists of marrying the corpse in a mock wedding, talking to it, and even hinting at acts of necrophilia in one particularly odd scene. However, the fun comes to an end when the group realizes that the spell wasn't entirely a bust; no, it just takes a while to work, and now, the surrounding forest is overflowing with the walking dead.

The only fault that I could find with this film (besides the horrendous fashion choices of the seventies) is that it takes quite a while to get started. The first hour features the cast joking around and bickering with one another in this desolate graveyard, and although I have to admit that it was humorous as hell, it would have been nice had the action gotten started a little sooner. I wasn't exactly bored to tears during this hour due to the fact that that it was chock full of campy acting and surprisingly witty dialogue, but I can easily understand why others may choose to fast-forward through it in order to get to the zombie carnage. It's certainly no Pulp Fiction, but I think it was worth sitting through in the end.

Once the action gets started, this film turns into an excellent little zombie flick. While there's very little violence (well, nearly everyone dies, but almost all of it takes place off screen), the tension and the claustrophobic atmosphere definitely make up for any faults that one may find during the first hour. Clark would go on to show us that he knows exactly how to set up a damned fine scene for the maximum creep-out factor in Black Christmas, but that wasn't the debut of the man's genius. He may have perfected it there, but there's plenty of traces of it to be found in this criminally underrated film. Also, even though this film is nearing its 35th anniversary, the zombie makeup featured within puts some of the new releases to shame. It's certainly not the best I've ever seen, but it's a whole lot better than one would expect from the era.

Much like Night of the Living Dead, this movie is readily available in numerous budget horror collections; oddly enough, my copy comes from Diamond Entertainment's The Vampire Collection, Vol. 2 set. While I fail to see the vampire connection here, I'm certainly glad that I finally picked this one up. You can purchase this movie by itself for a couple of bucks on eBay, or you can lay down about twenty dollars for this and twenty to fifty other horror classics in various box sets. For that price, it's a no-brainer as to whether or not zombie fans should add this to their collection; however, even if it were a standalone regular-priced release, I'd still recommend it. 8/10.
bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 10/16/2006, 04:37 PM
This is one of those gems that you forget about and then catch it a few years later and fall in love all over again. Bob Clark is one of the most entertaining directors of all-time. He has given us one of the best horror films, "Black Christmas" -- one of the best comedies, "Porky's" -- and one of the best Christmas films, "A Christmas Story". This guy has done it all, and this film ranks up there with some of his best. 8/10.
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