CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS is the heart warming story of a troupe of quasi-professional actors and their megalomaniacal director/producer Alan (Alan Ormsby) who decide it would be a nifty idea to go to a deserted island, perform a satanic ritual and raise the dead to serve Alan's every need. And why not, after all it's 1972. Having reached this conclusion Alan chooses an island that meets certain specific requirements and has the proper ambiance, to wit it has an old cemetery where the dead were not necessarily the nicest folk, and a deserted house where an unspeakable crime had been committed. As their boat pulls up to the little dock, our story begins. Oh, in real life the island is Key Biscayne, just down the road a piece from Tricky Dick Nixon's house.
Our chosen island is a creepy little place (made all the creepier by Uncle Alan who proceeds to curdle his "friends"/employees blood with graphic stories of the evils perpetrated by the dead buried in the ground around them) while they engage in the task of digging up a corpse of proper vintage for the evening's main event.
Come midnight, however, Alan's ritual seems to be a dud and Orville (the recently exhumed corpse) just sits there like, well, like so much dead meat, as do all the other bodies in the cemetery. Incensed, Alan calls a curse down on Satan, which draws nothing but ridicule from his troupe and a classic case of one-upsmanship from Valerie (Valerie Mamches).
Humiliated and enraged, Alan orders them to drag Orville (Seth Sklarey) back to their camp at the spooky deserted caretaker's house where he proceeds to to demean, degrade, humiliate, and otherwise abuse both the living and the dead--while outside we see that the dead have decided to rise after all. Whether this is a result of Alan's ritual or a response to the curse called down on Satan is academic --the dead are rising. They are hungry. And ham and cheese is on the menu.
From here on we are in classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD mode, board up the doors and windows and consult the handy dandy grimoire that Alan brought along to use in his original ritual. But, oh no! To return all the zombies to their graves, they have to return ORVILLE to his grave first and they could never make it through all those slavering flesh eaters! What to do?
Well, I'm not going to tell you. I haven't told you everything up 'til now either. What fun is a review that makes you feel as if you've seen the movie? And this is one you should see for yourself if you dare call yourself a fan of the genre.
Written and directed by Benjamin Clark (later to gain fame as Bob Clark with PORKY's, BLACK CHRISTMAS, and A CHRISTMAS STORY), CHILDREN is nicely written and rings true to anyone who has had to spend time with "actors" who are at this rung on the talent ladder. Uncle Alan and his little troupe are constantly "on", always performing, always trying to come up with a funnier line than the last guy. Life for them is a constant audition. It's hippie theater with delusions of the avant garde, improv by the uninspired.
There is some genuinely bad acting going on here and the finger is usually pointed at Alan Ormsby. I don't have a problem with him. I think he does what he has to do to get his character across. For me it's his real life wife Anya Ormsby who deserves the most criticism. Although her portrayal of the fragile, spaced out, cleverly named Anya is all too familiar to those of us who inhabited that era---she just goes waaay too far. One character says "one day she's just going to float away". Not likely. Anya is one space cadet who has a jet pack.
An awful lot is accomplished in this little movie with what can only be called a modest budget. I've heard it was well below $70,000. Alan Ormsby's make-up for instance is very effective, but why wouldn't it be...rumor has it he learned his craft working with Tom Savini, one of the greatest. And Carl Zittrer's musical score is extremely effective especially during the zombie resurrection scene, a scene always cited by fans as one of the scariest they've experienced. The electronic score combined with the shots of Ormsby's undead wriggling out of the earth like so many ghoulish seedlings seeking the moon in a perverted Disney nature film provides genuine chills and isn't easily forgotten. My daughter still gets freaked out by the music here!
There's more, so much more. But go find out for yourself how much fun you could have back in the days before those awful homogenized computer generated monsters usurped the screen, and imagination went out the window.
HYPE FACTOR: People bad mouth it because of the clothes and Ormsby's performance. Don't believe them--about Ormsby anyway.
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