Sunday, September 4

Revisiting One of the Worst Ever: Children of the Living Dead (2001)

"Well, this one's gotten some really negative reviews, but I'm going to judge for myself", I said to a friend one fateful day in Saturday Matinee shortly after this abomination to all-that-is-zombie first hit shelves. After trying to endure Children, I realized that much to my eternal shame, I actually paid to see this crap and it even felt wrong to own a copy. It certainly couldn't sit with my other zombie discs...

It's obvious judging by those involved this was another ultimately failed attempt at either trying to ape or capitalize off of George A. Romero's 1968 criterion of undead cinema, Night of the Living Dead.

The fact is NOLD co-writer John Russo and Bill Hinzman, the original cemetery zombie, have constantly attempted to practically shove Romero off the pedestal as modern zombie pioneer through a variety of means. Some innocuous like flesh eating-themed comics or novels. In particular, Russo's 1978 Return of the Living Dead eventually became, albeit heavily altered to be less like Romero's work, Dan O'Bannon's 1985 film of the same title. Though other attempts, like the utter mutilation of the '68 classic in 1999 in "celebration" of its 30th anniversary, have left many wondering just how far these two (especially Russo) are willing to go to sledgehammer their way into horror history.

Children of the Living Dead was meant to be a "direct" continuation of events in the original Night. After the initial outbreak was contained in 1968, another popped up in 1986 (which we see a brief glimpse of), and another is about begin. Why didn't these otherworldly events catapult the quiet town into forever must-see tourist status? No idea, but through all these thirty-plus years, the sleepy farmland community has feared the name of resurrected rapist/murderer Abbott Hayes who is said to still shamble around by night claiming victims.

A young businessman moves into the homestead Haynes is said to lurk, sets off to build a giant car dealership, and hires a construction outfit to transform the land--even the old cemetery comprised of painted foam tombstones (seriously). Naturally this pisses off the zombified Haynes who, with a gaggle of fresher zombos, goes on nightly missions to eat those responsible. That's right, let's not go on a rampage to grow our legion into world domination, let's instead just kill a few people trying to pave our graveyard...?!?

And that's about the best wrap-up of the painful events in Children. I know that I recently condemned even watching The Dead Matter, but at the least that was a very competent bore over the total living dead trainwreck in question. Literally everything sucks in the worst fashion; from the dubbed-over performances, flashlight cinematography, and right down to how ineffective Haynes is as a villian. For being so feared for decades and having solid make-up, he walks with a laughable hobble and just sneers at the camera menacingly while his minions do the dirty work dragging the living down to feast off-camera.

And yes, I said dubbed performances, the vast majority of the dialogue was very poorly dubbed in post-production. It's so bad that two actors, one undubbed and the other dubbed, engage in conversation on-screen at the same time. Or sometimes in a mixed group. Or go all Godzilla and move their lips without a peep. It's actually surprising how distracting this problem becomes despite seeing plenty of post-dubbed Italian horror and western features. Not to mention a gun-totin' Tom Savini in black wifebeater and fatigue pants gets killed like a pussy in the first five minutes. What movie in their right mind would commit such an act? Hell, watching Savini continue shooting zombies in a open field for ninety minutes would have been vastly more entertaining.

So please, let this be a warning. Artisan's VHS and DVD are both out-of-print and for good reason. It's hard to reach the impact level of "wasted ninety minutes of life" achieved from this experience. A decade later and things haven't changed. Children of the Living Dead is still unbelievably terrible and best only for the sadomasochistic in search of viewing material during genital torture. As a final cherry on top, read director Tor Ramsay's awesome apology/explaination/roast concerning his awful experience with this awful movie. And for those who bash Savini's '90 Night of the Living Dead remake while Children continues existence, for shame. Really.


DrunkethWizerd said...

I've never seen this film. Should I see it?

Jayson Kennedy said...

Yes, it's an unheralded masterpiece.

R.Sterling Carody said...

I liked the first 10 minutes. Thought it was gonna be amazing, but after that first 10 it got worse and worse and worse.

Brian H. said...

I remember renting this when it came out, and even to my untrained teenage eyes it hurt. I watched all of it through multiple sittings. I even pulled my mother into the living room to admire this cinematic trainwreck.

The large problem with this movie isn't that it's "so bad it's good", but rather that it's so bland it's sleep-inducing, which is the worst kind of "bad" movie. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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