Director – Bob Clark
Cast – Alan Ormsby, Valerie Mamches, Jeff Gillen, Anya Ormsby, Paul Cronin, Jane Daly, Roy Engleman, Robert Philip, Bruce Solomon, Alecs Baird, Seth Sklarey
Release Year – 1973
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is one of those films that I immediately found interest in due to its awesome title. In addition to that, I also wanted to see this because it comes directed by the late Bob Clark and written by the awesome Alan Ormsby. A prime example of low budget filmmaking done right, this effort delivers the goods with an enjoyable story and manages to do so with a PG rating as well. The horror is zany and there are plenty of zombies, and with the film’s only major flaw being its overly long development this wound up an enjoyable piece aimed at fans of cheap 70s horror.
Six friends out for a night of fun desecrate a graveyard and dig up the corpse of Orville. They use Orville for a playful “Satanic” ritual to raise the dead, finding themselves dumbfounded and running for their lives when the spell actually works.
If you are looking for a serious and creepy atmospheric 70s flick then Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things will not suit your needs. If you seek a cheesy good time (especially if accompanied by inebriation) then this effort should mostly give you what you want. Alan Ormsby (Deathdream, Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile, Popcorn, The Substitute, Porky’s II: The Next Day) begins with the six friends heading out to the secluded wilderness to dig up a corpse and perform their ritual, but not without taking their sweet time desecrating the graveyard. When the ritual finally goes down it seems it did not work, so instead of horror carnage we get the friends playing pranks on each other and goofing around for a good while (63 minutes of the film’s 86 minute runtime). It was this overly long absence of horror that I found to be the only major fault in the film, and thankfully once the horror got going and the zombies rose from their graves I was treated to what I came to see. The zombie action was enjoyable and it completely engulfed the final 20 minutes of the film, also giving us a slew of deaths that included more than just the six friends looking for a good time. Alan Ormsby also achieved a milestone in the horror genre with this story being one of the first to positively employ gay characters, although stereotyped, in prominent roles that were also enjoyably comical as well.
Director Bob Clark (Black Christmas, Deathdream, Porky’s I & II, A Christmas Story) did a fine job with what he had to work with, completing the film in 11 days and with a $50,000 budget. The sets and locations used were good,but his lighting was way too bright and it negatively affected the atmosphere of the film. The acting performances were as good or bad as you would expect for a low budget 70s horror flick, but thankfully none of the performances were unbearable or ruined the film. I must say though that the musical score for the film is haunting and managed to aid in providing decently creepy atmosphere where the lighting and cinematography failed. When the horror and zombies finally hit the screen I was glad to see some decent zombies adorned with copious amounts of make-up FX. There was a noticeable lack of gore in this piece, hence the PG rating, leaving me a tad bit disappointed in the film’s horror output. Thankfully Clark’s execution of the horror and the kills was positive and fun at times, keeping me distracted from the film’s many detractors and showing tha the guy had talent early on, even with a low budget and inexperienced actors/crew.
Overall, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is a positive horror experience that provides fun cheese and delivers an enjoyable output despite taking an overly long time to develop. The story is coo and it comes with plenty of zombies to suit the ZOMficionado, just don’t expect any of the usual elements associated with films of a higher budget.