(1972)2Bruce EderBob Clark's Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972), done when he was still known as Benjamin Clark, was one of the more inventive zombie movies to come out in the wake of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. It clearly owes a debt to Romero (who, in turn, owed something to such predecessors as Edward L. Cahn, not to mention early '50s horror comics), in terms of its images and the basic setup, and also to such distant antecedents as Reginald Le Borg's Voodoo Island (1957) -- and in some respects, it's also the very (very) distant thematic antecedent to Shadow of the Vampire. Where Clark's earlier Deathdream was a horror movie with a serious political message concerning Vietnam, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things is a more playful exercise in horror filmmaking, having fun at the expense of horror moviemakers and their audiences, and positing the question -- what if it were suddenly for real? Clark and star Alan Ormsby (later the author of My Bodyguard and the 1982 Cat People) deliberately set up the most inept and obnoxious semi-pro film company in the history of cinema, similar in nature to the awkward college students studying the occult in Jack Woods' Equinox (released a year earlier), and then have great fun disposing of them in all kinds of grisly ways. Ormsby himself is about as convincing as any of those actors in the 1960s version of Dragnet were in trying to portray obnoxious hippies and other underground denizens of late '60s society. The rest of the acting is generally inept, just a cut or two above the work in Equinox or such low-budget releases as The Witchmaker, and Clark's directing has more than its share of defects, including a leaden sense of pacing that makes the film much too static in various shots and scenes -- in that regard, Clark here seems like an amateur compared to Romero. The payoff comes in the second half, when strange things happen in the graveyard, beginning with a rotting corpse whose fingers seem to start to move, and a grave marker that shakes slightly, while two crewmembers in zombie makeup are digging around the cemetery. Hands reach up and soon animated bodies are rising erect out of the ground, and from there on, everything about this movie works like a live-action version of an early '50s EC horror comic -- or a color version of Night of the Living Dead, which isn't ideal but comes out better than one would expect.
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In Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, an above average slasher/horror film, a group of amateurs decide to experiment with witchcraft with deadly results. This film has a small cult following, due to some extent to the fact that one of the lead characters is played by writer and makeup effects artist Alan Ormsby. Ormsby gives one of the three or four most obnoxious screen performances in history as Alan, the leader of a troupe of actors who try out a voodoo ritual on a corpse only to find out that it has worked on all the corpses in the graveyard. The acting is terrible and the special effects are obvious and cheap, but the film somehow manages to overcome all of this and be quite entertaining, but only for those with strong stomachs.