It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born. For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009 (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012 (when we left the blog behind), and 2013. This year, we’re going old school and present to you the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon 2014: Classic Edition! Sunday, Bloody Sunday (part two) Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1973) Directed by: Bob Clark Written by: Bob Clark & Alan Ormsby For their first attempts at a feature-length horror film, Alan Ormsby and Bob Clark, took inspiration from the box office success of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but with a decidedly different stylistic and philosophical approach. Their horror-comedy Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things proved to be exactly what the drive-in movie market was looking for next. It proved so successful in fact, that they were able to raise five times the Children budget for their next horror experiment, the fascinating and disturbing Dead of Night (aka Deathdream). That film played with the idea of a young man dying in Vietnam and returning home as a zombie. Sort of. He’s more of a vampire-type. Regardless, it’s a film that is well-worth watching. But back to Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. If the name Bob Clark sounds familiar, it should. He also directed the horror classic Black Christmas, the sex romp classic Porky’s, and the holiday classic A Christmas Story. Co-writer Alan Ormsby went on to also script My Bodyguard, Cat People, and Porky’s II: The Next Day. Children was filmed in two weeks for a budget somewhere between fifty and seventy thousand dollars with Ormsby providing much of the zombie make-up effects and starring as the mean-spirited and annoying leader, also named Alan, of a small theater troupe. It’s a decidedly low-budget affair that spends the majority of its 87 minute runtime establishing that the cast of characters are insufferable and kind of deserve what’s coming to them. Or coming for them, if you will. They’re very much like the kids who show up a couple of years later in Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre; self-absorbed, obnoxious, and symbolic of a generation that has gone off the tracks somehow from the ideals of the Sixties. Here there are blatant references to murder cults at a time when the Manson Family murders of Sharon Tate and six others were still fresh in the minds of everyone, and the theater troupe itself is a den of backstabbing, abuse of power, and empty aspirations of creativity. The group, under Alan’s leadership, boat out to an island of buried criminals just off the coast of Miami, for a night of devil worshipping and witchcraft. Using a grimoire and a corpse they’ve dug up (named Orville), Alan performs a ritual with the coerced help of the troupe that is intended to raise and enslave the dead. When nothing happens, Alan melodramatically curses Satan to the mockery of the rest of the group. Not to be denied his entertainment, Alan orders them to bring Orville back to the cemetery caretaker’s abandoned house for more insults, degradations, and corpsal abuse until the dead finally do rise and no one gets out alive. If there’s a major complaint about the film, one could complain that it’s not until the final half hour of the film that the dead actually rise; and by then you’re kind of rooting for them. Although anyone who has spent time doing Community Theater will recognize these characters. That they are performers allows the script some leeway with the witty banter and theatrical flourishes of the dialogue, but it’s going to put off some viewers, I know. For me, however, it’s the gleefully nihilistic undercurrent of the film that makes it a classic. At least in Night of the Living Dead, the script held out the opportunity for hope only to snatch it away at the end. Here, the strongest voice in the film, Alan’s, is hopelessly bleak. He glorifies the idea of a meaningless world where “man is a machine that manufactures manure” and the dead are just clay and bone – worthless except as playthings for the living. In a sense, it’s not just the dead that Alan rages against, but the world itself. He’s the despot of a tiny community that hangs on his every pronouncement – and his paychecks – to the extent that the troupe is willing to take his verbal and psychological abuse in their own vapid desires for fame. The present that he lives in is one where all the dreams of art and beauty have collapsed in on themselves and when push comes to shove, he’s just a clerk with delusions of grandeur; and enough money to coerce others to be his “children.” And yet for all his proclamations of the emptiness of life, when the dead come for him, he clambers for more time – even going so far as to throw his death-obsessed (and slightly insane) girlfriend Anya (played by his real wife, Anya Ormsby) to the zombies. It’s a brilliant moment where Clark slows everything down and Anya seems to almost float away into the crowd of walking corpses while even the dead seem shocked by Alan’s betrayal. The final scene of the film is bleak, as the zombies pile onto Alan’s boat and set off to invade Miami. It’s very similar to the closing scene a few years later in David Cronenberg’s Shivers (aka They Came from Within) and satisfies the very EC Comics feel to the entire proceedings. For those interested, the 35th Anniversary Exhumed Edition DVD release below is a nice one, loaded with extras and interviews, letterboxed, and featuring the most complete cut of the film available. See larger image Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things New From: $9.70 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.