Review Date: November 28, 2000
Released by: VCI Home Video
Release date: 6/22/1999
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
Director Bob Clark's attempt at a zombie film was made in 1972 and was directly influenced by George Romero's Night of the Living Dead
. Sadly, in my opinion, Bob Clark's effort here is lackluster, especially when compared to his excellent slasher, Black Christmas
(one of my few favorite slashers). Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
has been available on DVD from VCI for quite some time, but for those of you who have hesitated to buy this DVD here's our review.
A group of theatrical actors led by their director, Alan (Alan Ormsby), travel to a remote island to conduct a ritual that will raise the dead. The island used to be home to a resort but is now a cursed place, which makes it an optimal location for the ceremony to take place. Of course it doesn't hurt to have a wicked cemetery and a deserted cottage in the woods and this particular Island comes equipped with both. On their way up to the cottage they pass by the cemetery and Alan explains to his "children" the history of the island. After some awful dialogue and bad acting the group arrive at the cottage and begin to get settled in. After gathering some supplies from his "sorcerer's chest" Alan and the others trek back to the cemetery they had passed previously. In order for the ceremony to work Alan needs a fresh corpse from one of the graves and he's selected Orville (Seth Sklarey) as the unfortunate cadaver.
Alan instructs Jeff (Jeff Gillen), one of his actors, to open the coffin that supposedly contains the body of Orville, only to have the corpse suddenly lunge out at him. The group is terrified, but in the end it turns out to be one of Alan's pompous jokes. After the group settles down Alan instructs his children to gather around in a circle as he begins the ceremony. Alan proceeds to read demonic passages from the book (Necronomicon?) but it doesn't seem to have any effect and Alan is made to look like the fool he is. One of Alan's actresses makes fun of him and takes over the ceremony only to mock Alan and Satan. Despite they're attempts the dead seem glued to their coffins and Alan decides to pull an ace from his sleeve. In an act of desecration he decides to take the body of Orville back to the cottage for fun and games. Once there Alan stages some twisted wedding (uh yeah... I have no idea what the hell that was about) and rage begins to erupt between him and his sheepish actors.
Meanwhile back at the cemetery it seems the passages Alan read from his book had some potency after all as the dead begin to rise from the grave (in the film's only interesting scene). As tensions begin to brood back at the cottage Alan's entourage decide to leave him and they start heading back to the boat. They don't get very far before they discover a mass of flesh hungry zombies heading right for them. In what's probably this sorry lots only smart decision in this whole damn movie they decide to retreat back to the cabin and board up the doors and windows. It's all down hill from there as the helpless group of actors tries to find a way to get past the zombies and get help only to be met by a predictable conclusion.
With a peculiar title like Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
, one would expect an equally strange film and for the most part Children doesn't disappoint. Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
is basically a fusion of Night of the Living Dead
and Evil Dead
(although Evil Dead
wouldn't be made for about another 10 years), but unfortunately the result is a pretty mediocre film. Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things
starts out similarly to the way Evil Dead
does, with a group of teens heading to a cabin/cemetery to read some passages from a book in an attempt to wake the dead. It works to disastrous effect and the teens quickly find themselves in a Night of the Living Dead
scenario, complete with boarding up windows and a doomed escape plan. In the end the similarities to Night of the Living Dead
hurt the film, as one can't help but feel they are watching a watered down version of Romero's classic.
Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things
is also pretty amateurish and comes off more like a Troma film at times. Really there is very little style or creativity going on and it all feels rather bland. The acting is also not that great either. It's not all bad though, some of the characters are almost likeable but the character of Alan played by Alan Ormsby is downright dreadful. His lines are awful and they are delivered very poorly. I realize Alan is not supposed to be a likeable character but I think it's taken a bit too far here. If Bob Clark wanted this dialogue in the film so badly he should have at least got a competent actor to read those lines; this guy had my eyes rolling in the back of my head throughout most of his speeches (of which there are many). Unfortunately, without giving too much away, the character of Alan survives much longer than most of his comrades, which is unfortunate for the viewer. It's a shame his character wasn't killed off 15 minutes into the film then at least it would've started on a high note.
Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things
is a zombie film and one mustn't forget the gore factor, and once again Children falls under the mediocrity category. For most of the deaths the camera merely looks away as the victim is about to be eaten. Sadly we hardly ever see any zombies feasting on anything with the exception of one or two instances. The make-up designs are also pretty bad and not convincing. Night of the Living Dead
had an advantage being in Black and White, and the look of the zombies was much more forgiving. Here they are in color and the effects are certainly sub par. Well it's obvious that I didn't care for this film, but maybe my expectations were too high. That's probably because I really like Clark's Black Christmas
- a film I feel is vastly superior to this one.
VCI presents Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
letterboxed at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio in a non-anamorphic transfer. Having VCI's Bird with the Crystal Plumage
DVD and being quite happy with it, I had high expectations for this disc, but sadly the transfer is on the weak side. The image is very soft and flat; more often than not faces seemed blurred and details smothered. The print used for the transfer looked to be in good shape with only some mild speckling throughout and grain wasn't apparent. However, there were a couple of instances where there was some discoloration and it was quite distracting. The colors are very murky too and were lacking in vibrancy. Flesh tones also never appeared natural and usually looked either pale or yellowish. Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things
takes place entirely at night and, unfortunately, the black level was not entirely satisfying either with some shots appearing grayish and not strong enough.
Additionally the transfer seems too dark and shadow detail is lacking creating a very flat and dull image that is hardly easy on the eyes. Really I wish I had some better news but this transfer seems more like an over glorified VHS transfer than what I expect on DVD.
Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things
is presented in Dolby Digital Mono. Sadly there is a bit of distortion in the dialogue, but other than that this mono track is serviceable.
There are a couple of extras on this DVD none of which are very significant. Included is the film's theatrical trailer, which is non-anamorphic and of average quality. There is also a tiny photo gallery containing a few lobby cards and promotional art.
As I say in my review I wasn't very pleased with Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things
. This film may hold some interest for zombie fans but anyone going into this film expecting great things will be resoundingly disappointed by its amateurish and bland style. VCI's DVD is also not very good and at $24.98 the Disc is a little pricey for what you're getting. Horror fans would do best to rent this DVD before laying down the cash to buy it.
Image Quality - C-
Sound - C+
Supplements - C+
- Rated PG
- 1 Disc
- 16 Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital Mono
- Theatrical Trailer
- Photo Gallery