The underwhelming 1972 zombie horror romp, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, is a fun film to watch when hanging out with friends and imbibing a ton of alcohol. Beware though. The acting makes grade-school productions look like high theater and seems to have been funded entirely by loose change found under couch cushions.
The basic story is that a group of snotty drug-addled theater types go off to a deserted New England island where there once used to be a small village. There they stumbled upon to an old graveyard and perform a satanic ritual used to summon up the devil and bring the dead to life. When it seemingly doesn’t work the leader, Alan, gets all bent out of shape and begins hurling insults at the Great Beast. The followers then desecrate a grave – knocking over all sorts of Styrofoam tombstones – dig up its occupant (named Orville) and drag him over an old house where they spend the night drinking and ingesting hallucinogens.
One of the women, Anya, gets a little too into Orville (“He’s so beautiful!”) so Alan pulls him into another room and has a nice heart-to-heart with the corpse (“You’re the only one I can trust, Orville.”). But of course, what happens? The dead do rise as zombies; it just took them a minute to get going. So everyone in this incredible bunch of pretentious and annoying would-be thespians is eaten which is probably the best ending I could think of for this crowd of irritating characters.
However if you actually want to watch more of these people, may I suggest the film Deathdream (1974) about a vampiric Vietnam veteran, returning home to spread evil about his former small town. It was shot back-to-back with Children and features most of the same cast and director. Using vampirism as a metaphor for post-traumatic stress disorder, the film focuses on the destruction war brings to the family and is a superior film in every way. If that’s the case, why then am I writing about Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, you ask? What can I say, I’m addicted to crap. And I’ve truly enjoyed Children every time I’ve seen it, just not in the way the producers intended.
Now the interesting thing is that this Z-Grade zombie flick was written and produced by some talented people, several of whom went on to do some great things. It was written in part by Alan Ormsby (who plays Alan, surprise, surprise) who went on to write classics like My Bodyguard, the 1982 version of Cat People, Porky’s II, and The Substitute, among many others. While the other writer and director, Bob Clark (credited here as Benjamin Clark) went on to direct such seminal classics as Porky’s, Black Christmas, Murder by Decree, Turk 182!, From the Hip and everyone’s favorite A Christmas Story
Rumor has it that Bob Clark was attempting to do a remake of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, but his unfortunate death in a car accident in 2007 prevented it.
The trailer for the film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!
Born into the blue-collar city of Buffalo, NY, Rex Hurst was traumatized as a small child by the suffocating rabbits scene in the animated adaptation of Watership Down. Ever since, his mind twists towards the macabre, until his inevitable blossoming as a horror and sci-fi writer. When not writing he is an assistant professor of composition, public speaking, and literature.
Rex Hurst is the author of the horror novels The Foot Doctor Letters: A Serial Killer Speaks Out; What Hell May Come & the sci-fi novel Across the Wounded Galaxy as well as several novellas. He is also co-host of the weekly radio show Write On SC. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, www.rexhurst.com, and What I’ve Been Reading blog- https://rexhurst.blogspot.com/