Fast Forward to a Great Ending
Bob Clark was always more interested in comedy, even when making
horror. The problem has always been, for me at least, that his sense of
humor was too stupid and infantile to ever be funny, or even believable
when coming from the mouth of anybody over the age of ten. And so in
'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' we have a bunch of grown
adults behaving like elementary school children pouting, whining,
giggling and taunting their way from one pointless scene to another.
Though the characters' childishness is supposed to be a plot point
(hence the title), it's so tedious, repetitive and irritating as to
make the first 2/3 of the movie almost unwatchable. Writer Alan Ormsby,
badly miscast as the lead character, delivers one of the most
embarrassing and cringeworthy performances I've ever seen. And don't
get me started on the ridiculous caricatures of two gay men that pop up
half way through.
It's worth sitting through all the Scooby Doo bullsh*t for a final act
that seems like it was plucked from another, and far superior, movie.
Sure, it's a complete rip-off of 'Night of the Living Dead', with
everyone trapped in a house under siege by the undead hoards, but after
such an appalling first hour, even blatant plagiarism is a welcome
relief. But anyone expecting Tom Savini-style blood and guts will be
sorely disappointed 'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' is
rated PG for a reason.
The hand-held camera-work is a nice touch, and the dark and grainy film
stock lends a certain low-fi analogue appeal, but such aesthetic
niceties are rendered redundant thanks to Orsmby's incompetence as both
a writer and actor. There are a couple of scenes that are genuinely
arresting the sight of the undead scrambling out of their graves to
the accompaniment of a raucous ambient industrial soundtrack works
well, and one of the final shots, of zombies tumbling in to an upstairs
bedroom in slow motion has a certain raw and gritty realism about it.
'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' is an ultra low-budget,
played-for-laughs, light-hearted zombie flick whose great final act is
not compensation enough for an hour of risible and tedious nonsense.
But maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe Clark intended this to be the
first ever zombie movie for kids. As such, it may be of great value as
a preschool introduction to the genre before advancing to better
When setting out to wake the dead make sure that's what you really want.
Bob Clark (the man who brought us great films as diverse as Porky's, A
Christmas Story and Black Christmas) brings us this zombie movie and
tries, but fails, to add something memorable to the subgenre.
The story concerns a bunch of friends who visit an island to get up to
hijinks and mess about in the company of a freshly released corpse.
Well, invoking the dead to rise and then insulting Satan while you're
at it is always going to cause some problems so it's no surprise to
learn that things go horribly wrong for the group.
A frustrating movie, this film shows great potential and fulfils none
of it. The acting from everyone involved is pretty dire (okay, maybe
some are a bit better than others but they end up being tainted by
their company), the script is full of irritating moments and the actual
zombie action is fairly tame compared to many others out there.
What we do get here is a lot of atmosphere, sadly punctuated by
something that ruins our short-lived viewing enjoyment. The island
setting and the constant playing around with the corpse manages to keep
a sense of real unease even before things get really tense. That's a
good job because nothing else of importance actually happens until the
last 25 minutes or so.
A sad, sad misfire that frustrates thanks to the potential you can
glimpse just hovering around the edge of the lacklustre moments it's
See this if you like: Weekend At Bernie's II, Zombie Lake, The Living
Dead At The Manchester Morgue..