Monday, November 16

Some quick thoughts on Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things! (1973)

There's something individual about Children... that's tough to put into words. Maybe it's the secluded forested island by night locale, but the film feels nearly completely disembodied from time. This lesser film shot back-to-back by director Clark with the potent Deathdream (1974) could have been lensed last year and purposely degraded as an homage to schlocky '70s cheese. Even the gaudy, bright fashions of the "living" cast settle into an stereotypical "hyperreality" of the decade Children... was made. The premise of the pissed-off dead rising from ruffling Beelzebub's feathers also fits well with the period's fascination with Satanism and in an alternate universe could be a logical starting point for the modern "zombie" if Romero hadn't pioneered the rotted flesheater in '68. Not that I'm complaining...

Bob Clark's zombies are obviously influenced by George's milestone, but are extremely impressive in their confidence. Just five short years after Night of the Living Dead, the vernacular of the American meat desiring zombie is cemented right here. It's all here; dirty burial wear, shambolic ambling, flaky green skin, blackened orbits, moaning, and a hunger for warm human while bathed in eerie fog. One could throw them in an indie undead flick of today and they'd fit right in. These zombies aren't just seeking dinner, but they're aiming for revenge. When they arise, it's more than a bit unsettling how quickly characters fall and no one is spared despite not actually witnessing any "feeding" off victims. This is where the wait plays off and Children... succeeds with chunky globs of atmosphere after its long, talky build-up.

I was a victim of the first hour upon my initial viewing years back until I perked up with the attacking zombies. Don't expect a constant threat as the majority of the film is spent with false starts, tiny hints of impeding doom, and general hijinks with the little shit director and his irritated company. Though Clark and Ormsby's script is pretty snappy if you're in the right mood. Alan Ormsby's performance as a bullshit intellectual director is a supremely arrogant grade school prank-pulling prick but he does have the best lines. I think I'm going to keep his quote, "Man is a machine that manufactures manure.", for a rainy day. The upside of this sometimes endurance test portion is that just before the dead dig from their dirt; the proceedings with the living feel like the sticky "end-of-the-night" after a party has worn out its welcome. Everyone is fed up with everyone, tired, listless, and ready to leave. Of course, the difference being zombies are awaiting instead of a buzzed drive home at 4 a.m.

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things! is like an after-dinner mint nestled upon a brain-splattered pillow. A pleasant little chaser to partake in every once in a while after gorging yourself on larger undead epics. Clark's heart is obviously all over its kitschy spookhouse mentality and it deserves to be reserved for those nights when you just want something comfy in a zombie subgenre offering.


Unknown said...

I'm a fan of the film. It certainly grows on you with repeat viewings.

Franco Macabro said...

I agree with you, the first half aint easy to watch. I remember shutting it off and giving up on it. Then, a few days passed and i decided to see the second half. Things got a bit better once the zombies start popping up. But just a bit.

Part of this film appears in Fright Night as one of the films that Charlie Brewster is watching on T.V.!

Tower Farm said...

I've tried to watch this before, but can't get very far. I want to like it, because I love Clark's "Black Christmas" I guess I'll have to give it another chance.

Fear Finder said...

CSPWDT is definitely in my top 10 zombie flicks of all time. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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