Sunday, September 30, 2018

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972)

Alan leads a theater troupe by boat to a small island where there is a cemetery for the most infamous and deranged criminals. He aims to complete a ritual in order to raise the dead while ridiculing and berating those he employs. An unfortunate dead man named Orville is exhumed from his grave while Alan attempts to raise him with a book he found in the abandoned house on the island. Will Alan raise the dead or will his crew tire of his abuse and nonsense and quit before the ritual even happens?

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things is a low budget, odd 70's film. Alan is literally the worst person in the world. He demands to have sex with the women in his troupe and makes lecherous comments to them throughout the night. Alternating between scaring and embarrassing his underlings, he torments them in one way or another consistently. What keeps them there and under his thrall is that he supplies the money and has the power to fire them. In order to keep earning money and acting or working on his projects, They feel they have to give in to at least some of his whims, including coming with him to the godforsaken cemetery island for rapists and murderers. Alan is just a trash person who does Nazi salutes, calls his employees slabs of meat, has no respect for the dead at all, and loves to hear himself talk.

The two characters I actually liked were Valerie and Anya. (A note that all of the characters have the same names as the people who play them.) Valerie mocks Alan throughout and doesn't take his crap. She stays to keep her job, but she gives as much mockery as he does. When the actors have had enough, she is the only one who goes up to him to tell him they are stealing his boat and leaving with or without him. Her rendition of the zombie raising ritual was also way better than Alan's and her demonstration silenced him for a time. Anya is an odd character who seems enamored with the dead. She is most upset at how he has disrespected the dead and how the corpse would be angry. Although she sounds crazy, Anya is actually the voice of reason and foreshadows what would happen. All the other characters kind of blend together as spineless.

The first zombie raising is fake. Alan paid actors to pose as the zombies and attack his troupe, traumatizing them further. Some of these people laid in a coffin covered in dirt for over an hour just to create this trick. Their makeup isn't very good and they quickly break character. Later, when the real zombies rise, the difference in makeup effects is stark with the real zombies' looking much more realistic. It takes a while for them to rise from their graves after the ritual, but when they do, it's totally worth it. Most of the characters are either bland or unlikeable, so it's a nice payoff to see them chased down and killed. Alan changes from his cocky facade and realizes the danger they are in. He scrambles to reverse the spell he cast. I wish the real zombies had more of a presence in the film. They only appeared about 15 minutes before the end of the film.

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things is a slow movie with mostly unlikeable characters. The ending payoff is worth it, but some might not think so. The most annoying thing about the film is the electronic sound effects or music (it's hard to tell which) that never stops and acts as an annoying background. Other than that, it's a pretty decent zombie movie. It's a bit surprising to me that the director Bob Clark would go on to direct one of my favorites Black Christmas. It's definitely worth a watch.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

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