Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things Review
Written by: deadhorse13
Benjamin ‘Bob’ Clark is probably best known in Hollywood circles for directing Porky’s and A Christmas Story in the early 1980’s. These two features brought Clark’s name into the mainstream where he continued to make films until his untimely death by a drunk driver in early 2007. For fans of those movies it may come as a shock that his earlier career was fully steeped in the horror genre. Collaborating with college pal, writer Alan Ormsby, they would develop two films together - Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972) and Deathdream (1974), the latter earning a young Tom Savini his first effects credit. Ormsby would go on to helm the deviously offbeat Deranged based on notorious serial killer Ed Gein, and later rework Cat People. Clark would try his hand at only one more shocker, the archetypical Black Christmas, before moving on to greener, safer pastures. All these vehicles are worthy of a nostalgic drive down twisted hills and valleys, but it is the freshmen effort in which we will take turn here.
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things’ plot is fairly simple. Uncle Alan (Ormsby in the title role) and his acting troupe descend upon a supposedly deserted island to film a grade-B movie (might it possibly be this one?). While there they play practical jokes on each other, desecrate a graveyard, dig up a corpse named Orville, and perform a mock ritual to raise the dead using an ancient grimoire. The resident cadavers eventually take offense to all the shenanigans and rise from the earth in a brilliant Romero inspired third act.
Whereas the film definitely looks cheap, it is the sardonic dialogue that is truly priceless. The energetic banter between the mean spirited Alan and his ‘children’ is frequently hilarious and surprisingly well acted. Somehow through all the yucks a dark mood is created which appropriately builds to the creepy finale. The dead things are every bit as abominable as Romero’s own brood, and the concluding sequence actually rivals any seen in Night Of The Living Dead.
Black comedy, Zombie picture, morality play, and a peculiar time capsule for a bygone era when the love was free and the dead were pissed.
(It could well be debated that Bob Clark returned to the horrific with his dreadful Rhinestone in 1984, but that’s another issue entirely.)