Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is a wonderful title for a horror movie. However, I don’t know of any scientific axiom that proves a great title always results in a good film. If your probation for drunk and disorderly has got you teaching Film Study 101 to a bunch of burnouts at the local community college and you are trying to prove me wrong, don’t add this flick to your thesis. Your dissertation will fall apart under scrutiny like a Stephen Glass article in The New Republic magazine. You will most likely get pelted with cigarette butts, tiny liquor bottles and bongs tossed by your half-asleep class. Speaking of sleep, that was what I was trying to fight off as I watched this low-budget piece of schlock. I stumbled onto it like a drunk tripping over the family dog after ingesting too much moonshine eggnog and marijuana mistletoe at the annual Christmas Party. The dog bite heals much faster than the family shame.
That lasts forever. Fuck you, family!!
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things was written and directed by Benjamin Clark. We all know him better as Bob Clark, director of Porky’s and the classic, A Christmas Story. Unfortunately, for the audience, this film isn’t even as scary as the unseen, smoke burping furnace that had Darren McGavin using his talent for artistic profanity in A Christmas Story. Perhaps Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things(a lot to fucking keep typing) could have used some Scut Farkas or a strategically placed lamp that looked like a promiscuous broad’s leg?
At 87 minutes long, this movie creeps around like a ghoul being weighed down by a hundred pounds of ball bearings encased in its stinky carcass. I have to give Clark, someone who has directed good films, credit for creating an eerie atmosphere throughout the film. Sadly, he does little with it. I started to look forward to an after hours IT support email to ping into my smartphone and break up the monotony of the movie. That is a sure sign something is amiss. A film should entertain me more than an email from one of the platinum suits who can’t figure out how to delete pornography from their work laptop. Publicly traded companies will fuck you in the ass if you are caught watching dirty movies that contain that very activity.
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things opens with a low-rent troupe of hideously dressed actors sailing to a deserted island in the dead of night. Artistic expression was generally very good in the 1970’s. What the fuck happened with the hair and fashion? There are some old photos of me wearing unflattering apparel from the “Me Decade.” I was just a little kid, however. What was their excuse? Must have been all the quaaludes.
The leader and owner of the acting company is an odious creature named Alan(Alan Ormsby). He is a brittle pipsqueak that sports a flamboyant mustache, goat-tee combination and speaks in laughable theatrical phrases. I have to admit some of Alan’s dialogue hits the mark and helps to paint a picture of a friendless man with mediocre talent for the job he performs. He treats the people in the theater company as if he was a medieval Lord and they were nothing but dirty serfs, there to cater to his every need. Alan even suggests that a pretty young actress named Terry(Jane Daly) sleep with him to secure her spot in the show. Despicable behavior like that shouldn’t be deemed acceptable in any century. Terry’s boyfriend, the well built Paul(Paul Cronin), does little to put Alan in his place as no one wants to be a starving artist. Alan can put them all on the line for free food at the soup kitchen.
As this is a horror movie, Alan has brought them all to the island so he can spout some satanic incantations and raise the dead from the atmospheric graveyard that just happens to be there. There is the customary Scooby Doo scenario as the first pair of ghouls to attack the group are an entertaining pair of actors from the theater company. I am sure their portrayal would be considered offensive and stereotypical today by those who wet the bed over stuff like this. With all the truly horrible shit going on in the world, I think many people really need to get a grip about what offends them. Let’s just say that perhaps these two actor gentlemen in zombie makeup sound like they would make excellent male contestants on Project Runway. If something like that will get your Irish up, please steer clear of this flick. Trust me, the more offensive crime this film makes is the minutes and seconds it takes away from you that you can never get back. If someone mugs you and steals forty bucks, you can always make that back. Like rational thinking from a politican, time is lost forever.
End of right leaning rant.
Clark forces the audience to watch these thrift store court jesters hiss and moan at each other like the cast of a reality show created by Ed Wood. Alan struts around like a peacock and taunts a real corpse he made two people dig up and bring to a cabin. The occasional good line is instantly forgotten by the ridiculous sight of Alan talking to and caressing the corpse like he was taking it to the drive in. Weekend at Bernie’s plays like something directed by Frank Capra or Howard Hawks when compared to Alan’s behavior with the poor dead guy in Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.
When the dead finally rise from their graves, Clark gives us some chilling visuals. Zombies lumber past crucifix tombstones silhouetted by fast moving fog. Hands claw their way out of the ground and ghoul mouths call into the night in search of human flesh. No one ever said tropes can’t be effective. The last ten minutes is a watered down re-imagining of the zombie onslaught on the farmhouse in George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately for us, Clark couldn’t write a tight, biting screenplay like Romero used to bang out with regularity. If you’re a Porky’s fan and want to see how Bob Clark got started, check this out as a curio. If not, watch one of the classic Romero zombie flicks.