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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972)




After having forced myself to sit thru some pretty terrible new zombie movies I thought it was about time to reward myself with an old favorite. This Bob Clark classic is one of my favorite non-Romero zombie outings. Time to check in on our favorite life of the party in spite of being dead… Orrville.

Some theater people, actors and I think behind the scenes folks as well, are taken out to an isolated island for a night of creepy fun. Well it might not be fun for them, but their jerk of a director Alan is having a good time. He is a bit of a control freak and likes to threaten them with losing their jobs whenever they tell him he has gone too far, or God forbid try to leave. They must need the job because they allow him to get away with almost anything. This includes digging up a corpse and conducting a spell to raise the dead. He thinks it is all good fun, especially when he freaks some of them out. What he doesn’t realize is that the damn spell might work. Well this is a zombie movie so of course it does work!

After a decent buildup and establishing the characters the last twenty minutes of the movie is the big payoff. Here the zombies dig and claw their way out of the cemetery and trap the characters in the caretaker’s cabin. They board up the windows and try to hold them off in a familiar turn of events. Though this falls apart much quicker since we already know they aren’t going to cooperate and choose to bicker rather than live. There is one last bit of Alan showing how much of a jerk he is before the big finale.

Orrville...the life of the party
I know that a lot of people complain that this one is slow. I’ll admit it does take a while to get to the zombies. But all the stuff before that from Alan being an incredible ass, to another character named Anya being entertainingly loopy is entertaining. There are so many funny lines and situations before the undead show up that it more than makes up for the delay. The direction, writing, and cast are all top notch without a weak link. There is a lot more to Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things than just the zombies. The best zombie movies always have great characters and that is something that Clark understands here and what always made Romero’s flicks awesome. The cast brings them to life with great performances that could have been hokey and over the top but avoid that. And the dialogue is wonderfully twisted as they rip into each other in subtle and not so subtle ways. Plus, this has the best line in any horror movie ever where a character just keeps repeating, “I peed my pants.”

The makeup effects are very simple, but effective. Remember this is before Tom Savini raised the bar so the only thing to compare this to is Night of the Living Dead. These zombies have more makeup caked on them with that same grey skin and dark circles under the eyes that will have a familiar feel to it. We also get some others that have age to them and while the makeup is a bit silly and are obviously rubber masks I still like it. Somehow it just fits with this old early seventies low budget drive-in flick. The kills are equally as tame with just a bit of blood as most of the kills are implied and/or offscreen.

I love this movie and always have. One of my best movie going experiences was getting to see a midnight showing where they screened an old beat up print that was turning pink and looked every bit of its forty years. If you haven’t seen this one you really should. The word classic gets tossed around way too much, but this is one. This October do yourself a favor and watch Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.


© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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