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Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972)

This zombie flick was a nostalgic trip for me. I first saw it when I was maybe ten-years-old, and it scared the living shit out of me. I wanted to see if thirty years later I would laugh at myself for being so scared. Amazingly, I remembered much more of the movie than I expected (I guess it made quite an impression), and I wasn't disappointed.

An acting troupe and their jerk-of-a-director visit an island off Miami that contains a cemetery. Their plan is to exhume a body and use a Satanic rite to reanimate it, just for kicks. In reality, the whole thing is a sadistic joke planned by their director to scare them, with two actors done up as zombies as his cohorts. To make a long story short, the joke works, then they perform the rite on an actual exhumed corpse, as well as upon the rest of the graves in the cemetery. At first, director looks like an idiot because the spell doesn't work. But of course, if the spell really didn't work, there wouldn't be a movie, would there? The dead rise from their graves and make short work of munching down the actors and their twisted director. There are no survivors, and the final scene shows the zombies boarding the director's boat and heading off towards Miami.

This movie was created on a budget of only $70,000, was shot in only 14 days with a tiny crew, and the actors were nothing more than the director's college friends. Considering these factors, and that it was filmed in 1972, the movie is actually pretty good! They do a good job with special effects, considering their resources, and the setting is great. The acting, while containing no award-winning performances, wasn't too bad for a low budget, I've seen much worse. There were, of course, some laughable lines and a few over-acted monologues, but overall it really wasn't too bad. It did not, thankfully, scare me as much as it did thirty or so years ago, but it was disturbing in its own right.

This film stands alone, no sequels, something unusual in horror, huh? There was a plan by the original director (Bob Clark, also director of Porky's and A Christmas Story) to do a remake, but unfortunately his life was cut short by a drunk driver, and I believe any plans for a remake probably died with him.

I give Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things one-and-a-quarter thumbs up. Don't expect it to be your favorite movie, but it is a classic 'must see'. When watching, keep in mind when it was made and the budget it was made with. I think it can be appreciated by any horror fan, but by zombie fans in particular.

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