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CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS

Don’t you hate it when a “classic” horror movie turns out to be...well, like this one?  Yes, CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS has an attention-grabbing title and some heavyweight future talent behind the scenes, but it’s a crappy movie pure and simple. 

The Package 
     Writer-director “Benjamin” Bob Clark and writer-actor Alan Ormsby were University of Miami graduates when they made the ultra-low budget CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS in 1972, with college buddies in the main roles and an eight day shooting schedule.  Of the film’s inception, Ormsby had this to say: “Bob Clark had the money, we were both horror movie fans, and it was the most commercial type of film to make at the time”.  Surprisingly, it actually made money, and served as the springboard for the bigger and better Clark-Ormsby productions DEATHDREAM, DERANGED and BLACK CHRISTMAS (all from 1974).  From there the two went their separate ways, with Ormsby scripting films like MY BODYGUARD, CAT PEOPLE and KARATE KID 3, and Clark directing MURDER BY DECREE, PORKY’S, A CHRISTMAS STORY and many others. 
     A remake of CHILDREN was in the works, directed by Clark and supposed to be completed sometime in the spring of 2007--because, Clark said, “that we can improve!”  He was right.  Sadly, though, that remake is now DOA, as Clark, aged 67, was tragically killed in a Malibu car crash on April 4, 2007.  Thus, a uniquely talented genre practitioner is no more--Bob Clark, R.I.P.

The Story
     The supremely obnoxious Alan is the legend-in-his-own-mind director of a rag-tag five person theater troupe.  Alan leads his charges to a small tropical island that contains a shack and a graveyard; he’s looking to play a practical joke on the actors by digging up a corpse he christens Orville for use in an arcane ceremony to raise the dead.  What Alan doesn’t realize is that his enchantments really do cause the dead to rise, including Orville, who’s mighty pissed off after Alan manhandles his body in a mock wedding.  Alan and co. end up trapped in the island shack as the living dead converge upon them.  Alan manages to briefly staunch the flow of zombies by intoning a second enchantment meant to reverse the effects of the first, but in the end everyone ends up zombie food.  From there the living dead, emboldened, decide to commandeer a boat back to the mainland.

The Direction
     There are some good things in this film.  Bob Clark was a talented filmmaker and his skill was evident even in this bummer, which contains surprisingly good lighting and make-up effects (the latter accomplished by Alan Ormsby himself) that belie the extremely limited budget. 
     But the script is a stiff constructed around a zombie mash that doesn’t occur until the final twenty minutes.  Until then we’re forced to spend time with six supremely annoying, personality-free characters, including the nails-on-a-chalkboard grating Alan, played by Alan Ormsby, who proves he’s far better off working behind the camera!  The pacing is as sluggish as that of the most lugubrious European art film, but without the virtuoso filmmaking to help us through.  Plus the zombie carnage, which might have seemed shocking back in 1972, is quite tame these days.  Ultimately the best I can say about this film is that it allowed Bob Clark and Alan Ormsby a chance to work out quite a few kinks--without it we might never have gotten DEATHDREAM or BLACK CHRSTMAS.


Vital Statistics 

CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS
Geneni Film Distributors 

Director: Benjamin (Bob) Clark
Producers: Bob Clark, Gary Goch
Screenplay: Bob Clark, Alan Ormsby
Cinematography: Jack McGowan
Editing: Gary Goch
Cast: Alan Ormsby, Jane Daly, Anya Ormsby, Jeffrey Gillen, Paul Cronin, Valerie Mamches, Seth Sklarey
 


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