Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1973)

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973)

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1973)

Imagine a world where the writer and director of a holiday classic so beloved that it plays on a TV station for a straight 24 hours every Christmas, also wrote and directed a sub-par zombie horror comedy.

Well, that’s actually not hard to imagine because we live in that world.

It is actually not that surprising that Bob Clark would write and direct a movie like Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things – this is the guy who brought us Black Christmas and Porkys after all – but from the vantage point of 2015, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is just a mere trifle of a film that happens to be a weird footnote in the career of more or less a one hit wonder. That said, Bob Clark was also responsible for the interesting Deathdream (1972) which is an interesting take on using the undead in a film.

The other major boon to the movie is the super bummer ending, but that is a reward not really deserved as we spend the bulk movie watching cliched horror action as a group of teens do their best to survive the night on a remote island.

The plot follows a group of theater actors who travel to a remote island by boat to spend an uninterrupted night of partying, drinking, and having general fun and games. As always with this type of set-up, things are not quite what they seem – the island turns out to be a burial ground for criminals and other undesirables.

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973)

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973)

The group of teens are led to the island by their theater leader called Alan, who is played by Alan Ormsby, who co-wrote the film and also did the makeup effects. Alan attempts to play a prank on his actors by exhuming one of the criminal corpses and performing a ritual that is supposed to bring the dead to life. Naturally, thanks to Chekov’s supposedly fake satanic ritual, the dead do come back to life and start to attack the actors who have now boarded themselves up in an abandoned house.

Bob Clarks Children Shouldnt Play With Dead Things

Due to the film’s limited $70,000, many of the actors used were actually friends of the director and production team. The makeup used on the zombies makes them look more like early-stage mummies or late-stage cancer patients. It’s not wholly ineffective, but it does make many of the zombies look like they have been unearthed from the back of a forgotten dusty wardrobe, as opposed to looking like rotting cadavers risen from the dirt.

The film also has the classic failings of other low-budget genre fare like languid pacing, and acting that ranges from wooden to insufferable, the later being handled mostly by Alan Ormsby, who is hamming it up real hard, seemingly acting with the intent on really making sure that the old ladies at the back of the community theater can really feel how much of an asshole his character is.

The movie’s main saving grace is the final plague of zombies that attack the actors. There is real catharsis in watching an endless wave of creatures busting through windows and ganging up on coeds. Clark stages these attacks well, starting the onslaught with a great image of a dozen corpses coming out of the dirt and reaching for the sky; it’s a shame that the rest of the movie doesn’t have this same pulpy heart.

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is ultimately the outcast of a bygone era. The ideal format for watching this movie is late in the evening after taking in an abundance of substances and popping in a fuzzy VHS copy of the movie. And while there is certainly a market so this kind of below .500 zombie movie, in a digital age with literally thousands of options at our fingertips, it ends up being perfectly worth skipping.

Watch the trailer for ‘Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things‘ here:


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Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things‘ actually contains a pretty incredible soundtrack/score by Carl Zittrer, who also composed the soundtracks for subsequent Bob Clark films like ‘Porkys’ and ‘Black Christmas’. The soundtrack features an incredible synthesizer score that is as experimental as any you will hear, it isn’t easy listening by any means, but it does heighten the atmosphere and set your nerves on edge (even when the on screen action isn’t). Find out more about the soundtrack and listen to the crazy title theme at Siteofthedead.co.uk: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things – Soundtrack.

Written by: JJ Perkins